- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2004

Americans can empathize with the feelings of Spaniards following Thursday’s terrorist attack — the hushed streets, the extra security, the jangling of nerves at the sound of another siren. We stand with our friends and allies in their shock and their sorrow. We wish them recovery and renewed purpose.

The death toll continues to rise from the worst terrorist attack in Spain’s modern history. The cause was 10 coordinated explosions set off during rush hour in Madrid’s crowded railroad stations and commuter trains. It could have been even worse — but three bombs failed to detonate.

It is not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks. It could be the Basque separatist group ETA, an Islamic terrorist organization, or some permutation of the two. An Arabic-language newspaper in London received an e-mail from an Islamic terrorist group aligned with al Qaeda claiming responsibility for the blasts.

While the actual identity of the terrorists is unclear, their motivations are obvious. Spain has been one of America’s strongest supporters in the war on terror. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has been a true friend of President Bush.

Spain is now going through a period of mourning. A moment of silence was observed yesterday. Black sashes of mourning were fixed on the windows of train driver’s cabins. Candles and cards were placed around Madrid’s Atocha train station, where most of the blasts occurred. Flowers festooned the area.

As in other nations, after a time of sorrow, those heart-felt mementos will be replaced by a deep resolve. Western countries have so many targets — trains and skyscrapers, buses and banks. That wealth tends to hide a remarkable resourcefulness and resiliency, which sees full expression only after awful assaults.

Spaniards are already showing that spirit — the spirit of September 11. There were long lines of donors at Madrid blood banks. One, Pablo Zavala, a 34-year-old economist, told a correspondent, “I have been waiting for two hours but I will wait as long as necessary. My heart goes out to the wounded. I hope my donation will help.” Rail traffic was down 30 percent yesterday, but most trains ran as normal. European stocks were spooked, but not staggered. There are no plans to cancel the elections.

Like other free peoples so scarred, Spaniards will mourn and remember. Then, rededicated to the cause of liberty, they will rebuild. As Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar said in his Jan. 14 opinion column in The Washington Times: “I deeply think that the victims make up the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. They must be our strength and also our responsibility, for they demand results and justice.” With ties strengthened by the shared burden of an awful sorrow, we offer our deepest sympathies to the Spaniards.

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