February 21, 2011

Estación de Atocha, Madrid. October, 2009

Hardly anyone I asked at the train station knew where the 11 M Memorial was, and those that did gave me roundabout directions in Spanish that got me no closer to my destination. From the outside street level (where one set of directions took me), I saw an 11-meter cylinder of glass bricks in the middle of a traffic circle. Reverse-engineering where the below-ground entrance might be, I arrived minutes after it had closed for siesta. So I passed the time (easy to do in Madrid) at a siesta-free art gallery/garden nearby and returned at 16:00 to this quiet and somber place, unoccupied but for two German tourists as moved as I was. The memorial, which honors 191 people who died in the March 11, 2004 bombings of four trains destined for Atocha Station, offers an upwards tunnel of light (rising within those glass bricks I’d seen outside) observed through a clear plastic balloon imprinted with thousands of multilingual messages of hope and condolence. A spiritual space, at once sad, uplifting and reverential.

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