Police have connected one of the three Moroccans arrested Saturday to a suspected member of Al-Qaida. That person is currently in a Spanish jail accused of helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks.
The attacks in Madrid Thursday killed 200 people. In the middle of all of the violence were 22 North Carolinians.
An adult study group from North Carolina State University was in Madrid the morning of the bombings. The group heard the explosions and smelled the burnt aftermath.
As officials counted casualties, the NCSU travelers counted their blessings, knowing they had been on those trains just two days before the attacks.
Peace and quiet never sounded so good for Dr. Bruce Poulton, the former N.C. State chancellor who not only was recovering from jet lag Sunday, but also the stress of witnessing Spain's terrorist attack.
"North Carolina never looked so good to me as it did looking out the airplane window on this return trip," said Poulton, NCSU Chancellor Emeritus.
Poulton, his wife, and 20 other adults on a study trip set up through N.C. State's Encore program were in Madrid last week.
Two million Spaniards crowded the streets in a peaceful protest on Friday.
"That mob was assembled between the street and our motel," Poulton said. "We had to go through them. We didn't have any choice, you know."
Poulton said his group watched the aftermath, knowing they could have been victims themselves.
"But for the grace of God, we would've been involved in that," he said, "because we took the train out of that very station at the very same time in the morning, just two days before."
The scare had the group concerned about flying home Friday, butBut they did not want to stay in Spain, either.
Poulton said he landed with a renewed sense of urgency, a fight for freedom the New York native first felt after 9-11.
"I am convinced we need to confront this terrorism stuff," he said.
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