On May 11, 12 and 13, 2011, the Asociación 11M Afectados del Terrorismo [Association March 11 of those Affected by Terrorism] convened an international gathering in Madrid to explore the beliefs, work, and hopes of victims of terrorism concerning democratic justice and peace. Here are some of the student essays written in response to the presentations made during that conference.
On May 11, 2011, we had the honor of welcoming to our school a visit of several people, whose desire is to build a world with peace. But the amazing thing about these people is not the great effort they are making in raising each individual to guide his life on a path of peace in which violence dominates, but the courage and strength they have to fight for their desire after having suffered in their own blood a terrorist attack.
Beatriz Abril was accompanied by her father, Jesús Abril. He lost his brother, Oscar, 19, to the March 11, 2004, terrorist attacks in Madrid. Beatriz moved, to go back to school where she and her brother studied, and told us how her experience was and how they lived and overcame the death of her brother.
Oscar took the train every morning to go to college. That March 11, 2004, one of the trains exploded 300 meters from Atocha station. Oscar was on that train.
The family was incredulous to see that Jesus could not do anything, which was coupled with the chaos and concern that grew minute by minute, not knowing anything about Oscar.
Beatriz let me see her pain and sadness that came from losing a family member, but at the same time, I was surprised to learn how hard she wanted peace and the strength you must have to go ahead and fight for their principles, remembering day after day what happened.
After hearing Beatriz, she left me thinking about how right she was to express her disbelief and anger at the attitude of other individuals, blinded as we are and the stupid hobby of judging a group of people who are in a common religion, country or simply by the color of their skin, based on the mistakes made by one or two people of that great group. And I wonder why we do this, knowing that it is unfair and unwise and reliable to say nothing.
A similar case is that of Terry Rockefeller, who lost her sister in the attack on the Twin Towers.
Terry explains how surprised he felt upon learning of the tragedy, because her sister was an actress and worked two days a week organizing a conference, so could not imagine being there at that precise moment and wrong time.
The unexpected death of his sister, helped her to think and be aware that there are thousands of people every day who die in violent situations and that the vast majority are innocent people suffering. For this reason she decided to join the organization September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, helping to fight and create a world based on peace and not violence.
After the story, about how she experienced the death of her sister and learned from that terrible experience, I began to reflect on the idea that if we respond to an attack with all that violence it will create more violence. So from this point of view, should we expect another attack as revenge for the death of Osama Bin Laden, who was murdered by the government of America?
But what surprised me in hearing both Beatrice and Terry is that they do not wish death to the murderers of their relatives. They want justice; want to see those people in jail, not dead or on the street. And made it clear they do not feel hatred or revenge against those responsible for these deaths.
And finally, included the discussion was Masieh Hadiya, who did not have the experience of Terry and Beatrice, the experience of loss, and was not affected by terrorism. But he does share with them the hope of living in a world that follows the path of peace, because he knows how violence hurts people.
Hadiya was a member of a highly controversial radical Islamist group from 1998 to 2007.
She joined the group in college, where she felt isolated, discriminated and distinct from other groups and individuals in the same culture, i.e., left to feel isolated and like a freak. But over time, she matured and saw that she did not share the ideas of that group so she had to quit.
Making the decision to leave that group was a tough decision because she knew people who had great affection and were her friends, but he could not bear the thoughts that it condoned violence and left the group in 2007 to join various organizations to fight for peace.
At the end of the day, after thinking all afternoon about the experiences that we had been told, I felt strong and able to fight for peace even in the environment in which I live every day. And I saw the customs and injustices we commit, deciding that I would no longer commit them and would attempt to commit to that long road to a world that choose peace and not violence.
Estefanía Arcediano Fayos
On Wednesday 11 of May, Manuel de Falla high school had the pleasure of having the presence these three women united against terrorism: Terry Rockefeller, Hadiya Masieh and Beatriz Abril. It was also a pleasure, and a surprise, that we could also count on the presence of more guests: Felipe Daza, Sergio Burstein and Saad N.Jawal.
The students made a brief comment, both in Spanish and English, as a symbol of welcoming. Then, the guests continue telling us their own experiences, and our young public, expectant, listening to them carefully, didn’t even blink.
The first who talked about her experience was Beatriz, who once was a student in our high school, like her brother (who died in the terrorist attacks the 11th of March); and she was excited because now she was talking to such a young public who reflect the kind of teenagers that she and her brother once were.
Then our others guests continue talking about their own experiences. First Terry, who lost her sister on 9/11; then Hadiya, who once was in an Islamic radical group; after that, Sergio, who lost his wife in the terrorist attacks of Amia; then Felipe, who participates in the NGO NOVA; Saad, a man exiled from Irak and a doctor in Political Sciences; and finally Juan Gutiérrez, friend of the Abril family and member of their NGO.
Once the speech ended, the students’ questions started. Many of them asked many questions, very different, and there wasn’t time to answer all of them, even the questions unsaid.
But the question that we were all thinking and only Esther Fuentes dared to say was: “What can we do?”
Our guests gave many different answers, from something such as simple as pass on to our friends videos against terrorism by internet or even participate in an NGO.
But the best answer, the most philosophic and probably the wisest, was the Juan Gutierrez’s one, who said to us, not with words, mainly with the heart, that these kind of questions must be answered by ourselves, we are the only ones who have the answer, with the time and little details, and maybe one day we will be part of something more, like Felipe, who now is going to go to Syria.
We ended the day giving white flowers, the symbol of peace, to these three honourable women, and we thanked all for their presence.
And, because we didn’t really have enough time (there is never enough time!), most of the students stayed there a little bit longer to speak with our guests and ask them the questions they were afraid to say aloud.
Is wonderful to point out how our guests were so close to the students, they even took some photos all together.
We are sure that this was a great experience that one day must be repeated.
Dámaris Sanz Martín
Beatriz Abril with her father Jesus were the most sensitive . Both Beatrice and Oscar, her brother who died on one of the trains in the train bombings March 11, had studied at our school. Beatriz went on to say that she felt reflected in us because she had been in the same chairs.
Then Jesus Abril presented all persons who accompanied them, including: Terry Rockefeller of the U.S., Hadiya Masieh of England, who converted to Islam when she was young, Sergio Burstein of Argentina, Felipe Daza de Catalunya, Saad N . Jawal Iraq and Juan Gutierrez, who is also Spanish.
Each is part of different associations against the “physical war,” they seek more power with words and what they all seek is that peace prevails over everything else.
The feeling of losing someone because of an attack is very hard, but we do not know how that is felt on the inside. Terry Rockefeller was one that suffered the loss of a relative in the bombing of the twin towers on 9/11. Terry lost her sister Laura, and joined various peace groups in order to honor her. My feeling was that as Terry was speaking Beatriz could scarcely speak.
Hadiya Masieh had to leave the group she belonged to, because she began to realize that she was working against her purposes. She has not lost any loved one in an attack.
Felipe Daza is one of the founders of “NOVA”, an association that is against violence and work hard to expand it throughout the world.
Other members identified with them because they did not like this war and chose to collaborate with different organizations, to eradicate this. Furthermore, these people had not lost anyone; they were just there to see how they can support those affected.
David Terciado Robles 1º BACH A1
Ten years ago, a jihadist group of terrorists which followed the orders of Bin Laden (without any doubt the biggest terrorist of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century) attacked the World Trade Center in New York and cruelly killed 3,017 people. This occurred on September 11, 2001 and from that day the world changed as we knew it. On September 11, 2001 I was seven years old, but I remember exactly where I was, with my grandfather in his house, even what television channel I was watching, and how horrified I was as I attended to the gruesome spectacle of death and destruction caused by that murderer Bin Laden.
From that day, which we could say it was the beginning of the new century, politically speaking, everything changed. It was the day that marked the end of the post-Cold War period and it was the start of globalization. A period where terrorism stopped to be understood as merely a local phenomena to start to be understood as, an unfortunately, global phenomena that threatens all Western countries.
The response that was given by the by the United States to this cowardly attack is well known. The war in Afghanistan, which continues even ten years later, and other military actions that have caused a clear and evident decline of this type of terrorism (even ending the life of Osama Bin Laden), but also has saved the lives of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
But during the past ten years, there has not only been a response from the United States, but also, unfortunately, this rabble have continued their attacks, and spreading death and destruction in various places like Bali, Madrid or London.
I would especially like to address the Madrid bombings due to both geographical and emotional reasons. I would like to point out that the bombings occurred in the same train line that goes through my town and my mother picked up-and-catch a train every day very close to the time the attacks occurred.
The day that these horrible and cowardly attacks occurred was on March 11, 2004. At that time I was 10 years old, but I remember perfectly that day, from the time I got up. I remember when my aunt, who lives next to Atocha, called asking for my mother (that is how I knew the terrible news); the minute of silence in the school in memory of the victims; the discourse of then President Aznar and the terrible images of the attacks on television and the Kings’s Speech. Of course I also remember everything that happened the days that followed the attack including the funeral in the Almudena Cathedral and the huge demonstration that occurred in Madrid, under a downpour, which symbolized perfectly the feeling of dismay that we had in those Spanish all day.
Every time I go to Madrid by train, and I pass though some of the points where the attacks occurred, I cannot stop remembering all the victims.
The truth is that it is a feeling only comparable, at least in my case, to the case when you’re in front of Ground Zero in New York, surrounded by huge buildings. At that time I felt sorry for the victims and disgust for the terrorists who did those atrocities. It is there, where I wonder what is the point of all this radicalism and intolerance that makes some people become criminals and are able to kill so brutally.
I am only 17 years old and therefore I hope that there are still many years in which I could have many experiences, but I can assure that today the most daunting of all experiences that I have lived and that made me think most about life and human folly has been my visit to Ground Zero in New York.
I would like to point out that I do not know what my reaction would have been if in the trains which had been attacked by terrorists would have been some family members. Indeed, if some of them would have died I cannot tell if I had chosen to ask for revenge or to fight for peace. I really do not know. Since then I think that the two reactions are equally human and I’m not anybody to judge a person when they lose a loved one that way.
Thanks to the workshop organized by Juan Cordero, I had the opportunity to listen live to several victims of terrorism who chose the path of asking for peace, of fight for it. I can say it has been a very enriching experience and there is no doubt it was an experience I will never forget.
Alberto Recio Mayoral
In my opinion, the discussion that we had respect to 11 March, the day that Madrid suffered the major attempt of the history on the trains that were going to Atocha, opened our eyes and made us see that the television only shows in what it is interested in and not what really is happening.
These attacks happened before the legislative elections, when there was governing Spain the president who joined to the war of Iraq to defend the USA after the attempt of the World Trade Center.
Thanks to the volunteers who came to the chat, we have learned that the violence is not good, and that is not solved by any more violence.
This message must be transmitted to other people because the most important thing is to prevent the violence from turning into bitterness because if not, we will stoop to the level of the one that has damaged to us.
One of the most valued phrases was said by one of the participants, Beatriz, old student of our center IES Manuel de Falla.
She was affirming that the message that she wanted to transmit was ” NO TO THE VIOLENCE” and to confess to us that if we should transmit the message to 50 persons, and 10 learn to live without violence, she will think that she has triumphed.
Another important aspect is the value that all the volunteers were showing, leaving the past behind, the pain aside, and thinking about the present to make ourselves see reality.
Hadiya called to my attention the value that came from opening one’s eyes in time to a group to which one belonged, which could damage many people, and in spite of all the risks that could result, decide to leave this group.
The moment that most impressed me was when Beatriz told us things about her brother; probably because she was the person with whom I most identified, since she also studied in the same institute that I did, and had a brother who she treated as her best friend. That’s why it made me open my eyes to the fact that it can happen to anyone.
In conclusion, I liked so much the discussion and it was a pleasure to speak with the participants afterwards, because we still have much that to learn and they can teach us from the experience.
Esther Carrillo Gómez 1º A de bachillerato
After the inspiring experience on 11th May in our high school, we all were convinced and optimistic that a change in our society’s attitude towards violence is possible. Maybe right now, through the pacifist demonstrations at Sol, we shall be experiencing the small origins which may end up in a social change. Though this is probably too far away from us yet.
For the moment, persons such as Terry, Beatriz, etc. have made us realize that it is not only some few people who believe in a more peaceful tomorrow. However, I feel quite sure that there are still many people who need to understand the deplorable nature of violence, and probably those who most urgently need a change in their thinking are those who would benefit from talks as enriching as the one on 11th May.
It is so sad to see how little logic there is in the reasons that lead to terrorism, and the huge pain they can cause. There is still many people who need to collaborate with us, but I certainly trust that one day we will all move toward reason, and away from the irrationality of terrorism and violence.
For me it is unthinkable that, despite all the advances the human being has developed in some sectors, he is still not able to distinguish and choose the most profitable path for all of us, between the path of violence and the path of peace.
Esther Fuentes Blas: (1º BachA1, 19/05/11)
Last Wednesday 11th march we had the pleasure of having in our high school the visit of several terrorism victims, a meeting where lots of emotions and feelings were in the air. We, the audience were impressed by how much interest this meeting held for every person. I would like to point out Beatriz Abril, Terry Rockefeller, Hadiya Masieh and Juan Gutierrez, because their testimonies were the ones that shook me, that transmitted all their feelings to me.
Also I would like to point out a message that all of them gave us: “In this meeting lot of doubts will appear, and we probably can’t give you an answer, but you, the future generations, might find the answer during your lives.”
This meeting has been a great experience, very accessible, especially in a personal way, where we learned and increased our dream of a fair society without revenge.
Irene Mª Ruiz Fdez 1º Bach A1
The last Wednesday 11 of March, came some people affected by terrorism, Terry Rockefeller, Juan Gutierrez, Beatriz Abril, Jesús Abril, Hadiya and Sergio Burntein of the AMIA among others, who lost their loved ones in terrorist attacks as the 11M or 11S. These people gave us a speech telling us that despite all they have suffered from terrorism they don’t seek revenge on
those who harmed them, but have tured all their feelings of pain and anger into action for peace. They don’t want to do the same as what was done to them; they seek justice for what has been done. So they told us their view about Osama’s death, they said that the only thing that they would have done was to take him to the court and may him pay for everything.
I couldn’t decide which of all the stories I found more interesting because, in truth, I was excited to see how all of them responded and the positions they took. But even so, I liked Beatriz very much, she lost her brother Oscar on March 11 bombings. Her words moved me, because despite everything have happened with her brother, she sent us joy through the way she is struggling to convey peace in the world. She just wants justice, not that these bad people experience the same violence that they did to us, because as she said: “Violence only begets more violence.” This is a very good point, because other people could think that people who have harmed others should have to pay in the same way.
On the other hand, another story that caught my attention was Hadiya’s story, because she passed of a radical Islamist group to another totally different course. Also, Terry’s story was really amazing, she told us that her sister worked in the theater and that day, and just only that day, her sister has to go to a floor of the World Trade Centre, and she didn’t see her again.
Finally, I was surprised as the Iraqi, Saad N. Jowal, said that we complain a lot about all the victims and the damage they did to us. But we have done the same in their country, even with a larger number of victims, and instead, they can’t complain, because it’s forbidden.
Thanks to these people we have learned that we must act in a logical way, acting with our heads and thinking about other people. That violence only begets more violence. To do this, we have to spread peace on THE WHOLE WORLD.
Laura Diaz 1º A de bachillerato