Solidarity. That was something I never thought I would accuse a Spaniard of.  When the tornadoes hit Oklahoma earlier this year and everyone joined in to help the affected, I said, "Americans help each other when tragedy strikes. Spaniards don't."  Well, I was wrong.

On the 24th of July, last Wednesday, I was at the hospital accompanying my father who had had surgery the week before.  It was the Eve of St. James and, as I left for home, I thought that if I didn't have so much work awaiting me I would have gone to watch the fireworks, even if only to celebrate my father's successful surgery.  But my husband and daughter were awaiting me and there was much to do before returning to the hospital the following day.

I hit the highway. A kilometer or so along and a police van, lights flashing, passed in the opposite direction.  Another kilometer and another van, from the Civil Guard, went north.  I thought, "What an awful evening to have an accident on the highway."  As I neared my off ramp thirty kilometers later, two firetrucks went north.  "It must have been a doozy."

It was.  A few minutes after getting home my mother-in-law calls.  "Did you see the accident in Santiago? It's on television."  Eh?  My daughter changes channels.  First impact.  Train wagons piled on top of one another, some burning.  That's in Santiago?  That happened right nearby?  Impossible, that's something that never happens near home.  It can happen in Paris, or in Quebec, it could never happen here.

But it did happen here.  And the neighbors did something I never would have thought possible in these Spanish neighbors of mine.  The people who live nearby heard an earth shattering explosion and went to see what it was.  When they saw it was the train that runs daily by their houses and that people were screaming for help, they didn't think twice.  Despite that a car was spewing flames those neighbors rushed down the embankment and started dragging people from the wreck.  Others showed up with doors, planks, pallets, anything, to help pull out people who might be critcally injured.  Others came running with blankets, sheets and towels, to pull around the living and to cover the dead.  Others simply showed up with kind words and hugs.  Many neighbors worked alongside firefighters and doctors pulling out the injured and dead far into the night and the next morning.

They haven't received any material reward, simply tributes from the rest of the country and the royal family but no money.  But they earned something much more important.  They earned respect.  They showed the world, and me, that even though Spaniards may be very individualist and independent, when help is needed they will give it, even if they risk their own lives to help.  True solidarity, that is what they showed.


  1. When I first read about the accident, it was just a story on the news that happened somewhere else. Reading your post put a more personal connection to it-thank you.

  2. Maria,
    on the 24th, as I browsed Facebook to kill time, I saw a post from a friend about a derailed train in Santiago. My first thought, it's a mistake! But as I clicked on the link and I read the article in La Voz de Galicia, I was shocked.
    I then checked El Pais, and it confirmed it.
    Being away from Spain, and having taken that same train less than a month before, going the opposite direction to Madrid, I cannot tell you the rush of unexplainable feelings that went through my body.
    After two hours it was actually on CNN in the States, so I knew it had to be BAD, as the international news don't make it on TV here as quickly as they make it in Europe.
    All I have to say is that for the very first time in my life, I actually felt very proud to be a Galician, and my heart went out to all my fellow neighbors.
    As the days go by and the investigation brings light to facts, I continue to pray for everybody, including this train's driver and his family. And I pray that when I take this same train again in September, and back to Madrid with my children a few days later, we will have a safe journey.


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