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'The fear is always there': Madrid terror survivor

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'The fear is always there': Madrid terror survivor
Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of a terror attack targeting Madrid commuter trains in which 191 people were killed. File photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/AFP
09:08 CET+01:00
Spain marks the 10th anniversary of the Madrid train bombings on Tuesday, but Antonio Gómez plans to stay away from the commemorations.

The memories of injured bodies strewn across Madrid's main Atocha station are still too painful for Gómez, who broke his leg when bombs ripped apart the packed commuter train he was in.

So he plans to skip a memorial mass at Madrid's Almudena Cathedral for the victims of the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history.

"There were mutilated people, people thrown on the ground, people in a very bad state. I was one of the better off. It was Dantesque. I don't like to remember it," Gómez told news agency AFP, before adding that he switches the channel when he sees television reports of the attack. "It is not good, but I avoid it.

On the 11th I will probably go to the cinema or watch the children's station Disney Channel," he said.

Gómez, a married 48-year-old bank computer designer with two daughters, was heading into Madrid the morning of March 11th, 2004, when a series of bombs exploded within minutes aboard four packed commuter trains heading for Atocha station.

The coordinated attack  — claimed by militants who said they had acted on Al-Qaeda's behalf over Spain's role in the US-led invasion of Iraq — killed 191 people and wounded about 2,000.

"The anniversaries affect you a great deal. It is a strange feeling, of pain, of sadness, of rage. It's a mixture of many feelings at the same time," Gómez said.

"Rage because we were just workers riding a train. We were not important personalities, people with a lot of money, we were regular people. What do regular people have to do with politics? We were going to work to earn money to raise our families and live decently."

Gómez was inside a train that had just arrived at Atocha when a bomb detonated in an adjoining train.

The newspaper he was reading protected his face from the flying shards of shattered windows.

"But bits of glass embedded in the face of a little girl beside me," he recalled.

With a fellow passenger, Gomez said he managed to force open a door of the collapsed train, as people trampled over each other to escape onto the platform.

He called his wife, who was six months pregnant at the time, on his cell phone.

"Just after telling her what happened and not to worry because I am all right, that is when the second bomb went off and the mobile was cut off," Gómez said.

"The blast wave caught me and I fell to the platform, and the blow broke my left leg."

He managed to hobble out to the street where a coworker who was heading into work by car spotted him and took him to hospital.

Chronic PTSD

Like many other survivors of the bombings, Gómez has been diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Even now, he rarely travels by train, uses a motorcycle to get to work and says he is always aware of his surroundings and where the nearest exit is.

"The fear is always with you," he said.

Gómez was visiting friends in London with his wife on July 7th, 2005, when suicide bombings on three London Underground trains and a bus left 52 people dead.

"When news of the bombings broke my friends turned off the television and radio, they isolated me from what was going on. We stayed inside, ordered a takeaway," he said.

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