María José Pedraza worked as an assistant in the Health Department of the Community of Madrid. Aged 41, she lived in Vallecas with her mother and one of her five siblings. From there she drove each day to the station at El Pozo, from where she took the metro to her work on Paseo de Recoletos (Madrid). Her dream was to become a schoolteacher and was due to sit public exams on 28 March to try to get a place.
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.