Spaniards clutched flowers and fell silent Friday as they marked the seventh anniversary of the bombings that killed 191 people on Madrid's commuter rail system in Europe's worst Islamic terror attack.
In central Puerta del Sol square, politicians dressed in black placed a laurel wreath at a stone plaque etched in memory of the dead and the nearly 2,000 people injured on March 11, 2004. They then observed a few minutes of silence.
Outside the city, a granite monument was inaugurated at the El Pozo train station, one of four sites where a total of 10 backpacks stuffed with explosives and shrapnel detonated inside morning rush hour trains.
At another of the sites, bustling Atocha station, the head of a March 11 victims association, Pilar Manjon, said it is still hard for her to speak of her son Daniel, who was 20 when killed in the attack, in the past tense.
"Yet again, another March 11. Seven years have gone by and it seems life is just a constant flow. But that is not true," said Manjon, holding a few red carnations. "Not a day has gone by without old memories or the pain of broken lives. We have still not learned to speak in the past tense. We are still not able to say. 'I had a son, a brother, a husband.'"
In 2007, a court convicted 21 of 28 defendants who stood trial in the bombings case, many of them Moroccans. They were found guilty on charges ranging from weapons possession to mass murder. But three of the 21 were later acquitted on appeal to the Supreme Court.
The initial verdict said the cell acted to wage jihad, or holy war. It made no mention of the then-Spanish government's support for the Iraq war and troop presence in Afghanistan as being reasons for the attack _ the assertion that militants claiming to have acted on behalf of al-Qaida had made in a video found two days after the bombing.
The conservative government in power at the time of the attack repeatedly pointed to Basque separatists as prime suspects in the bombings, even after evidence of Islamic involvement emerged, and the ruling Popular Party was defeated in general elections held three days after the attacks despite going into the voting heavily favored to win a third straight term.