Saturday, March 13, 2004

In Memoriam

La Vanguardia will be publishing short biographies of each of the 199 victims of the terrorist bombings in Madrid, much as the new York Times did after 9-11. We will reproduce summaries of each one in their memory.

Ana Isabel Gil Perez, office worker, 28, Torrejon de Ardoz. Ana was married and seven months pregnant. She died in La Paz hospital after suffering five heart attacks. Surgeons performed an operation to extract Ana's baby, but he died too. Ana was looking forward to her son's birth and to her sister's wedding.

Rodolfo Benito Samaniego, industrial engineer, 26, Alcala de Henares. Rodolfo was a pretty sharp fellow. He was an engineer who specialized in thermal energy, and at the same time he was studying to pass the exam to qualify as a math teacher; he really liked teaching more than engineering. He was carrying his math books in his bag. Rodolfo had a lot of friends and had been dating his high school sweetheart for seven years. He was looking forward to walking the Road to Santiago this summer; he had already done it three times.

Ana Martin Fernandez, secretary, 35, Santa Eugenia. Ana had a psychology degree and worked for the Madrid Press Association, where she was very popular. Many journalists knew her personally. She was a small woman with a big smile, her friends say. She was married and had a four-year-old daughter named Paula.

Osama El Amrati, construction worker, 23, Alcorcon. Osama was from Tangier, Morocco, and had lived in Madrid for five years. He spoke good Spanish and was integrated in the community, with many friends both Spanish and Moroccan; he shared an apartment with some Moroccan friends in Alcorcon. He enjoyed soccer and loved talking about it. His aunts said that he was very happy in Madrid. He worked in construction with one of his cousins in El Pozo. Osama's dream was to become a professional chef; that's what he listed as his profession on his passport.

Inmaculada Castillo Sevillano, office worker, 39, Alcala de Henares. Inma was a widow; her husband had drowned when he was 31 and she was 29. She leaves two orphan children, a girl of 19 and a boy of 15. Inma had a hard road, working non-stop to support her children, to whom she was very close. Despite her misfortune, she was a lively and cheerful person, say her friends.

Cipriano Castillo Munoz, metal worker, 55, San Fernando de Henares. Cipriano was a local activist, involved in various causes, and his leftist sympathies were well-known in his neighborhood. Cipriano was married, with a 29-year-old daughter and a 27-year-old son. He enjoyed reading and hiking and had a good sense of humor. His body was damaged so badly it took them twelve hours to identify it.

Sara Centenera, student, 18, Alovera. Sara had been an excellent high school student with the Salesians in Guadalajara, and was in her first year as a university student of physical therapy in Madrid. She came from a small town where her family had always lived, and leaves her parents and a 22-year-old brother. Sara was a shy girl who nonetheless was the "mother hen" of her group of friends.

Juan Pablo Moris Crespo, student, 32, Alcala de Henares. Ironically, Juan Pablo was well-known for his anti-terrorist activism; he once traveled to Bilbao to take part in a demonstration. He was studying engineering while working part-time as a technical translator from English. Juan Pablo leaves his parents and two sisters.

David Vilela Fernandez, librarian, 23, Alcala de Henares. David worked in the archives at the National Library in Madrid. His friends remember him as a nice guy with a good heart; they nicknamed him "Wrinklehands" because his hands were enormous and rough. He will be buried in his family's hometown of Yebra. Two of his co-workers were killed along with him.

Federico Sierra Seron, military officer, 37, Alcala de Henares. Federico had reached the rank of "comandante" in the Spanish Army. He had studied for the General Staff and was an expert in tanks, and for some time was part of an airborne unit. He had served in Bosnia as part of the NATO general headquarters representing the Spanish peacekeeping forces there, where he was awarded two medals. His wife is Bosnian, from Gorazde; they have a three-year-old son. Federico's father is a general, currently the military governor in Navarra.

Part of the tragedy here is that the people killed were all solid citizens, among the best and the brightest, family people, people on the train before 8 AM to get to work or school. These were people with prospects, responsible and dedicated people, people who made a difference in the lives of those around them.

If a bit of tasteless levity is permitted, this is the kind of victim biography we are NOT going to see:

Paco Hurganariz Sobacofetido, town drunk, mid-fifties, cardboard box under the highway underpass. Paco was well-known in the bars of his neighborhood, most of which he was banned from. Every weekend night he would get especially lit up on box-o-wine and pick a fight with someone; his friend Manolo, the other local drunk, points to this as a sign of Paco's sociability, pointing out that Paco's fights were nearly always preceded by an intellectual discussion of some sort. Manolo remembers that Paco's favorite humorous expression, repeated to everyone around him, was "Me cago en la puta madre que te pario!", followed by Paco's trademark laugh. Paco was possibly best known to his neighbors as "that crazy guy who's usually passed out on the church steps." Perhaps he was best-known and most popular among the members of the local police force; they remember that Paco used to spit on them "in a friendly sort of way". Paco leaves two ex-wives and six neglected children, most of whom fondly remember the way he used to affectionately beat and rape them every time he got liquored up.

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