José Gallardo Olmo was born in Sant Feliú, Llobregat, but had moved to Madrid to advance his military career. He was a corporal in the army and had been awarded the Cross for Military Merit for saving a small boy from choking on a coin. He met his wife, who was originally from Ecuador, in Madrid and lived with her in Azuqueca de Henares. They were planning to start a family. He usually went to work by car, but on 11 March 2004 his vehicle was being repaired. When the bombs exploded, he shielded one of his companions with his body, saving his life.
11 March 2004 fell on a Thursday. Early that morning, a number of terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda planted thirteen bombs on four suburban trains covering routes running through Madrid. Ten of the bombs exploded between 7.37 and 7.39 am, when the trains were at Atocha, El Pozo and Santa Eugenia stations and alongside Calle Téllez. 191 people were killed in the attack and around 1,500 were wounded. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history. On 3 April 2004, agents from the Special Operations Group (GEO) were about to enter an apartment in Leganés where the perpetrators of the attacks were believed to be hiding when the terrorists detonated twenty kilograms of explosives in an act of collective suicide. The ensuing blast killed one of the officers, bringing the total number of people killed by the 11 March bombers to 192.