Oh, Santiago

The wait for festivities on the eve of the saint's feast day is 
part of the experience. People lie or sit on the old stones of 
the  square facing the cathedral from about seven pm to 
stake  their place. Sandwiches  unwrap, friendships are struck 
or renewed, as the queue of people hoping to find a place, or 
their group, slims to single file only and the square is
officially full.
Light began to fade, taking on the night and we were hopeful. 
But it was not festivities that started. It was an announcement 
that everything was cancelled. Please clear the square.  A train crash. 
'It must be serious,' people mused, spilling into the narrow streets 
and finding their way in to bars.  Television screens were full 
of the news. Many dead and many, many more injured on a train  
carrying over two hundred people. A message typed at the bottom 
of the screen asked for blood donors.

The hospital is a good twenty minute walk out of town 
near the university.  I checked the way a few times, asking people 
in the street. It became obvious that everyone was 
going to the hospital, marching down the wide avenue.
'Solidaridad,' one woman said. Solidarity. 
It was worse than anyone could imagine. The death toll rising as
we waited,  more than a hundred, standing in the porch of the hospital. 
Eventually, after rumours of a mobile unit coming to the hospital, 
we were asked to make our way to the blood transfusion unit somewhere 
in town.  The crocodiles of blood donors disappeared into 
the night, indistinguishable from the party goers and I could 
not find the way.

This morning helicopters whirr overhead, sirens still cry out 
and perhaps the way for universal donors will be clearer.

Solidarity, Santiago. 

The old heart grieves and we grieve with you.
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2 thoughts on “Oh, Santiago

  1. Thanks Janers. Brings it all home to us. What a dreadful thing to happen and being at the time of the feast gives it that extra “death on Christmas” horror

  2. Jim, it was so sad. The following day the restraint of a town in mourning, the quiet after all the jubilation of music and dancing in the streets,
    brought fresh tears.

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