After the 2015 Paris Terror Attacks I wrote a blog post titled "Dealing With Fear"; it discussed the fear I had for Belgium, my country, and the people I know there.
On March 22, 2016, what I had feared became a reality; Terrorist had attacked Belgium.
Tuesday, March 22nd, was supposed to be a stress free day. My major class had been canceled and I didn't have to worry about waking up early for anything. As I rolled over to hit snooze on my alarm clock, I noticed several messages from my dad. My heart stopped and I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach as I read three words. Terrorists in Belgium.
I went straight to what everyone with a smartphone goes to; the internet. I kept hoping it wasn't attacks. Maybe the police had picked up more terrorists after having picked up one of the attackers responsible for the Paris tragedy. Yet, as I read the news reports my throat seemed to swell up and I began to cry.
34 people died, 250 plus people were injured, many are still missing. The images and videos of the metro bombing were frightening to take in. However, the one's that struck me the hardest were the reports about the airport bombings.
The Zaventem airport's check-in/departure hall where I've stood in line to have my passport checked, ate a quick snack, and waved goodbye to family members hundred of times is now destroyed. Videos showed the windows blown out, smoke and fire filling the building, some people running away, some people running to help those injured, and some people frozen in fear, shock, and disbelief.
Children about seven or eight, who were interviewed from an elementary school in the area, told reports when they heard about terrorists in the area that they were worried about their parents and hoped that their parents were safe.
People, who had a few seconds before the bombs went off, were in complete shock as they described the events. Many broke down in tears as they recalled the sounds and sights of the injured after the blasts.
The entire day between reading my dad's text message to when I went to my music lesson that afternoon was filled with attempts to study but my thoughts and heart across the ocean. I watched the news report online and fought back the urge to throw up when they showed a video of what happened. As the day ended and I called one of my very close friends to try to talk about it; I couldn't.
Almost three days later, it's still hard. The last time a country I was a part of was attacked it was September 11, 2001. Honestly, I don't remember much of it. All I remember are things I didn't understand at the time, airport security becoming stricter, and that I had an irrational fear that lasted throughout elementary school of terrorists hiding in the dark. Now, this week, Belgium experienced it's version of 9/11. This time, I understood what was going on. This time, I wanted to go back to being a six year old. This time, I didn't have an irrational fear. Fear was a reality.
I'm still terrified about another attack. I'm more hesitant about traveling back home (Belgium). Growing up, after 9/11, my parents always told my sister and I we'd be safe traveling to Europe. (Because who would want to attack a country who's main objectives are waffles, chocolate, and beer?) However, I don't believe that anymore.
Alas, it's impossible to live a life of fear. Risks have to be taken. Following the attacks, citizens of Brussels and the rest of Belgium were advised to stay indoors and avoid large public crowds. They did just the opposite. They gathered in town squares and in front of churches. They held candlelight vigils, wrote messages of peace, love, hope, and prayer on the sidewalks with chalk. They left flowers and cards as memorials to those who died.
Fear could have convinced them to stay inside and take the police advice. However, giving into fear would have meant that the terrorists would have succeeded. The people of Belgium proved they will not let fear control their lives. For that reason, when given the chance to go back home, I'm going to take it. I won't let fear win over me.