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Commuter Says Schedule Quirk Saved Life

March 12, 2004

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Normally, Jose Antonio Nsang takes an early commuter train to work. But this time, he drove because his girlfriend needed a lift to an early shift at her nursing job. That quirk in his routine might have saved his life Thursday.

On Friday, the 37-year-old from Equatorial Guinea gaped at the twisted wreckage of a double-decker train at Nsang’s station in the suburb of El Pozo, one of four trains blown up in Madrid the previous morning.

``The first thing I thought when I heard the news was that I had saved my life by a miracle,″ said Nsang said, holding the hand of his girlfriend, Maria Duran.

They were among many people who came by Friday to add white carnations to a makeshift monument to the 70 people who died at the El Pozo station. More than 100 candles burned in honor of the victims. Windy weather kept blowing them out, but people lit them over and over again.

At the Madrid Sur public elementary school across the street from the station, a 6-year-old girl named Sara Pintado was not so fortunate as Duran. Her mother Berta dropped her off at school, got on the train and was blown up, school caretaker Pilar Diez said.

``I said goodbye to her at the gate of the school,″ Diez said. ``The school shook with the explosion,″ she said, although none of the kids was hurt.

Police cordoned off the area, and in the evening Sara’s father Jesus came by to pick up his daughter. He stood by the yellow tape keeping people away, calling his wife on his cell phone, not knowing she was dead, Diez said.

``He kept calling but said there was no answer,″ she said.

The kids were playing Parcheesi when the bomb went off. When television stations started broadcasting footage of the attacks, teachers saw one child’s father bleeding but alive, Diez said.

At the monument, there was a colored-pencil drawing signed by a 5-year-old boy named David Gabriel of a bomb falling on a train. The convoy is red, green and blue, the bomb black.

A 3 foot-by-10 foot crayon mural signed by school children says: ``We children want peace.″

A smaller one depicts a dove carrying an olive branch.

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