Calling the Supreme Travel Advisor

702px-Puerta_de_AtochaMy sleepy eyes opened. I reached for my watch on the nightstand. It was only six o’clock. I’d have to wait a few hours to get a cup coffee at our breakfast sitting.  I contemplated boiling some water, but the pot was clear across the room and the air was cold. I opted to remain in the warmth of our bed. Staring at the wood beamed ceiling. I reviewed our time here in Salisbury and realized we’d enjoyed the perfect travel situation – the freedom to come and go as we pleased with the added benefit of this delightful lady taking care of us. I was looking forward to her traditional English dinner – it would celebrate our last night here. I got a warm feeling of hope that this “adventure” could feel like a vacation after all.

I grabbed the TV remote. Not wanting to wake Donna, I carefully turned down the volume as the TV screen came up. There was a “Special Report” banner over shaky video of people running around a train station in chaos, some limping, some bleeding. The train wreckage looked much more devastating than an accident. I adjusted the volume to hear the announcer describe what happened. My heart started beating as he spoke – a bomb had exploded – on a commuter train – ten people were confirmed dead – in Madrid.

Holy Shit.

The other BBC channel covered the disaster as well and already reporting the death count had risen to over sixty. As Donna slept, my eyes remained glued to the images on the screen – the gory detail was shocking, nothing like what I was used to seeing on American television. I felt nauseous, yet kept watching rescue workers pull bodies out of twisted smoldering steel. I finally closed my eyes and clenched my fists. I wanted to throw the remote against the wall. We had plans to visit Spain in two weeks.

Like the September 11 attacks two and a half years earlier, fear now had me by the throat again, stripping me of my sense of security. That was horrific, but at least it was at home. Here in a strange land with my loved ones, I felt as vulnerable as a rat in a cage with boa constrictor. The announcers were not helping – they were certain it was a Spanish terrorist group and other attacks were likely.

No way could I take my family down there.

Another pulse of panic suddenly hit me. Our friend Marit and her two teenaged kids were flying to Paris to meet up with us for ten days. The eight of us had planned a trip to Barcelona. From there they would fly home. I’m sure she’d already booked her tickets.

I closed my eyes again – this time to pray. It was an awkward moment, like calling a friend I’d not seen for a while to borrow something. It knew damn well it was wrong of me to treat God like a butler, ringing for him only when needed, but that morning I really needed Him. Everything around me practically disappeared within a few moments – the city, the Cathedral, the Inn, even Mrs. M – nothing seemed the same all of a sudden. I longed for the day before, when my only worry was getting through five months without losing my sanity. Now I’d carry a constant worry that my family and I might be killed. I dreaded breaking this bad news to Donna. I thought of the kids across the hall safe in their beds, counting on me to keep them safe. I really wanted to use these bombings as an excuse to fly home. Certainly everybody would understand why we cut our trip short. Wouldn’t they?

God, please give me an answer.

Donna stirred and reached for me. The moment her hand touched my arm, she lifted her head. “What’s wrong?”

MORE: on the Madrid Bombings on MWDI Facebook 

NEXT: Roast Beef, Wine and a Great Big Sign


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