back to the Black Table



Last Thursday's terror attacks on a commuter train in Madrid killed 200 people, wounded over a thousand more and piqued the memory of September 11 for many Americans. The international response to that attack in 2001 was humbling and inspiring, with the French paper Le Monde trumpeting in a banner headline, "We are all American."

We are not all Spanish, it seems. Spain doesn't get any candlelit vigils or tears or outpouring of sympathy, at least not from the American public. President Bush paid his respects Friday to the Spanish ambassador, as was right and proper to do. But Spain doesn't get an international day of mourning. That's okay. Spaniards indicated Friday that they're just fine on their own.

The streets of Spain were crowded Friday with millions of Spaniards protesting terrorism. At least a fifth of the country's population of nearly 48 million was out marching. Not sitting at home grieving. Not getting scared and buying duct tape. Not watching the news all day. Instead, they were furious. Heartbroken. Enraged. Despairing.


In America, if we did not go shopping, "the terrorists would win." If we did not watch the Super Bowl, "the terrorists would win." Eventually, even those of us in New York continued to live our lives. Because really, what choice did we have?

Spain chose better.

Spaniards rejected living their lives in fear. They rejected a government unable to protect them. The streets echoed with chants of "No to terrorism!" Drums banged. People screamed. Others cried. Banners read, "We were all on that train." And what the terrorists should have heard Friday was an emphatic, "Fuck. You."

Americans ought to envy Spanish people who marched on Friday. Their tragedy is not to be envied, but unabashed admiration is warranted for a people who got up and did something. The rage and grief many Americans felt after September 11, 2001 stemmed in good part from the overwhelming sense of powerlessness that clouded the post 9/11 landscape.

Whether the Spanish protests will prevent more terrorist attacks is doubtful, if not unknown. But those citizens are involved and reacting. They can remember for the rest of their lives that on the day after that terrible attack, they stood up with their neighbors and were counted. They shouted for all the world to hear.