DEATH WAS IN THE AIR
Updated: Nov 23, 2019
Continued from https://www.nohemingway.com/blog/el-dia-de-la-hispanidad
Two police officers at a park bench caught my eye when I arrived at Plaza Colón. I wasn’t alone as I met another journalist wondering what was going on.
The square was named in honour of Cristabel Colón which most people might recognise better if it was in English but despite being Columbus Day, Spanish people celebrate the discovery of the Americas without ever mentioning Cristabel Colón.
It looked like the policia might have a dead body on their hands as the park bench was covered in cardboard and tightly wrapped blankets. It had been a cold night and I sensed the tragedy of a homeless person dying on Spain’s National Day.
My new journalistic friend was very curious too but feared that the blankets and boxes could have contained a bomb or at the very least represented a serious security risk to the parade that would later pass by this park bench. Tanks, artillery and 4,000 soldiers, not to mention the King, his heirs, Spanish President and Mayor of Madrid
The police at first tried to move us along but we stayed and waited to see what was under the blankets and boxes despite the potential risks.
A dead body on the parade route would have been a national embarrassment and one Madrid didn’t need after the police brutality televised around the world on October 1st.
The tragedy of discovering someone dead on a national holiday would be horrible. Not that it matters when someone dies tragically but it would mar the sentiment of a country celebrating when someone might have died on the streets especially along the parade route. Talk about raining on your parade.
Spain needed a boost last year, as the illegal referendum in Catalonia, 11 days earlier, had fractured and embarrassed Spain. TV networks played the violent clashes and police brutality over and over again with CNN describing the ruthless police behaviour on October 1st as "Europe’s shame".
11 days later and the red and yellow Catalan flags were replaced by the red and yellow Spanish flags with Spaniards reacting to the Catalans Independence vote with a wave of patriotism including flags flown from balconies and children starting to wear red and yellow braided bracelets and Spanish flags appearing on just about everything and everywhere.
Death was in the air and I stayed even though I wanted to see the main festivities further up the road. I photographed the planes and helicopters passing by in formation and later in the day even saw the king driving past this very park bench in Franco’s Rolls Royce Phantom IV.
Well one of General Franco’s Phantom IVs. He bought 3 of the 14 cars after all. I wonder if others recognise who owns the rare Rolls Royce being paraded around in front of everyone.
The police luckily had cleared the stretch of road before the king passed by and more importantly, there was nothing but old clothes underneath. Fortunately there was Nobody and no body there.
Although I missed the tanks and soldiers marching in the parade and the skydiver parachuting down to the ground with an enormous Spanish red and yellow flag I did get to see the 85 aircraft that passed over our heads. 85 aircraft that had practiced flying over the rooftops of Madrid over the processing weeks.
There were Eurocopter Tigre helicopters like the one you might have seen in James Bond Goldeneye and the appropriately painted red and yellow water bombers that swoop down to collect water from rivers and lakes to drop down on forrest fires.
There were F18s and the impressive Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets and large transport helicopters, C47 Chinooks and even larger transport planes and aerial refuelers including the giant Airbus A400M.
And then there was the tragedy of the brave pilot who never returned home that day.
Flying over the Spanish capital and over my head, a Eurofighter Typhoon crashed while returning to its airbase some 200kms away.
As far as I am aware the brave Spanish pilot chose to ditch in a field so as not to risk crashing over a residential area. Death was in the air but Spanish people could still hold their heads up high even as the flag was draped over the coffin of Captain Borja Aybar García.
A patriotic cyclists passes by the park bench scene
4 Eurofighters pass over a monument to Cristóbal Colón, only 3 of them landed safely.
Painted yellow and red, 4 water bombers used for fighting fires, fly over onlookers.
Several fighters fly in formation over Madrid.
NOTE: All photographs are my own but my girlfriend videoed the fly-over from our home.
The second photograph was taken in 2014 and Anna photographed me in front of the Tigre helicopter in 2018 at a different event.
FLORES COLON: Spaniards celebrating the discovery and creation of Spanish colonies.
A journalist takes interest in the park bench as a woman dressed in red & yellow passes by.
Policia move people on from the park bench
Viva España, viva el Rey: A Rolls Royce Phantom IV speeds by the park bench
A NEW WORLD: But at the loss of one brave pilot.