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'I know your pain' - mum of Madrid train bomb victim attends Northern Ireland Troubles memorial

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Marisol Perez Urbano and husband Juan Carlos in Belfast

Marisol Perez Urbano and husband Juan Carlos in Belfast

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Marisol Perez Urbano and husband Juan Carlos in Belfast

The mother of a Spanish student killed in the 2004 Madrid train bombings has made her first visit to Northern Ireland to bring the message that "your pain is our pain".

Marisol Perez Urbano, along with husband Juan Carlos, was a special guest at Stormont on Friday night to mark Memorial Day for the Victims of Terrorism.

Their son Rodrigo was one of 191 people killed when a series of bombs exploded within minutes of each other on four commuter trains in the Spanish capital on March 11, 2004.

A further 1,841 were wounded in what was the worst terror attack in Europe since the Lockerbie bombing in 1988.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Friday, Marisol recalled the day she lost her son.

"I remember the morning Rodrigo left home. He slipped out quietly, trying not to wake us like he usually did," she said.

"It was a normal routine. That's the last we knew of him.

"We know he took the first train as normal and was waiting at the station to get his connection to university where he was studying computer engineering. It was there, while waiting, that the train coming into the station was bombed.

We have found that through talking to other people around the world who have lost loved ones through terrorism we are able to live on in our son's name and that is a comfort Marisol Perez Urbano

"It was one of four attacked that morning. Sixty people died in that station, and 191 were murdered across Madrid. Almost 2,000 were injured. All innocent, trying to get to university, get to work, live normal lives."

Marisol, who is a professor of literature at IES José Hierro de Getafe in Madrid, added: "We just wanted to live an ordinary life.

"But since the death of Rodrigo, nothing has been ordinary. We suffer stress, fear, we're always worried for relatives when they go out. That's what it does to you. It completely changes your life, your thinking.

"My mind has not been the same since that day. A little of me was taken too.

"For a long time on March 11, 2004 we thought Rodrigo was safe.

"We were told that he was not on the train that exploded. It took 24 hours to find his body in the ruins of the Atocha station."

Marisol shared her experience for the first time with hundreds of victims from across Northern Ireland as they gathered at Stormont for the event hosted by TUV MLA Jim Allister.

"We have found that through talking to other people around the world who have lost loved ones through terrorism we are able to live on in our son's name and that is a comfort," she added. "We want to use our experience to make the world a better place.

"We feel here, in Northern Ireland, we are among family. We are together with people who understand our pain and whose pain we understand in return.

Victims, no matter what their background, deserve respect for their suffering Marisol Perez Urbano

"Our son would never have wanted us to hate. Yes, we are sad, but we do not hate. That achieves nothing. Rodrigo is talking through us and that helps to ease what pain we still feel, but it never goes away.

"It has been over 80 years since the Spanish Civil War and I think about how that has changed our country. It has taken three generations to move on from that conflict.

"Northern Ireland is still close to the Troubles and for those who lost loved ones, the conflict and the loss is still very raw. That has to be considered.

"It is hard to cope with the thought that you might go out shopping and encounter the person who murdered your son walking around freely.

"Victims, no matter what their background, deserve respect for their suffering.

"They carry the pain of the country personally and it is with them every day."

It took Marisol 15 years to pick up the broken pieces of her family, to gather the strength to bring her thoughts together.

Marisol has since compiled a book about the attacks and the effect on her, Rodrigo's father Juan Carlos and his younger brother Gonzalo, who was 18 when his brother was killed.

"In those early days Rodrigo's death was manipulated for political gain," she said. "That was difficult to listen to for everyone who lost a loved one in the bombings.

"There was a continuous crushing feeling. There was so little sensitivity for the victims.

"We know what victims in Northern Ireland are feeling."

Mr Allister said it was important to remember victims of terrorism from all around the world.

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