03/18/04 — Students narrowly escape Spain bombings

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Students narrowly escape Spain bombings

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 18, 2004 2:02 PM


A woman whose daughter was among the college students in Madrid, Spain when the terrorist bombing occurred last week said that one of her statements might have been misunderstood. Vickie Best had made a comment about anti-American sentiments in foreign countries. She contacted the News-Argus and said her remarks had referred to Madrid only.

The orginal story follows:

A last-minute travel plan change may have saved the lives of four Wayne County college students in Madrid when terrorist bombs went off on a commuter train last week.

A group of 36 UNC-Wilmington students were studying in Spain at the time. College lecturer Valerie Rider and 17 students were in Madrid on March 11 when the attacked occurred. But because Ms. Rider had injured her back, travel plans were postponed and her group was not at the station when the bombs went off.

Vickie Best of Rosewood said her daughter and three others from Goldsboro were in that group. Erika Best, Ashley Dixon and John Paul Best are all 2001 graduates of Rosewood High School; Todd Weeks, an Eastern Wayne High School graduate, was also there.

"They were at the hotel across from the train station at the time and were asleep," Mrs. Best said. "They did not hear it. But they were made aware of it shortly after."

Mrs. Best said she received a call from her daughter at 4:30 that morning. The bombing took place around 7:30 a.m. Madrid time, which is six hours ahead of the United States.

"Communication was really difficult, but Erika was able to get a line out," she said. "She called and asked me to call the other parents, told me that they were safe and had not been harmed."

She said the group was moved from Madrid to Segovia, about 90 miles away, and continued the rest of its 10-day trip through four cities. But the hostility against Americans did not make the trip easy, she said.

The country was involved in an election. Mrs. Best said the students heard slurs against Americans, she said.

"I don't know what's happening in these foreign countries," she said. "They're anti-American."

The group had left on March 4 and flew home on Sunday, March 14. All of the parents met the plane. Mrs. Best said it has been quite an experience for the students and their families.

"They're 10 and a half hours away from you and they're in the middle of a terrorist attack," she said. "These kids have really gone through a lot.

"We have all been through a very stressful time. This was the first time that Erika and Ashley had flown or gone out of the country."

She said that when the first leg of the return flight ended in Atlanta, the girls wanted to kiss the ground.

"She called me and said they were glad to be on American soil," she said. "She was just hugging every American she could find."

"This is something no one knew about," she added. "No one could foretell it.

"It's the thirtieth time Ms. Rider had been over there, and never had a problem."

It is something the group will not likely ever forget, she said, but it serves no purpose to start blaming anyone.

"We just thank the good Lord that everyone was safe," she said.