The day after several bombs exploded at Brussels Airport and the Maalbeek Metro stop the streets of the city are empty. Even though there is traffic it is significantly less then usual. Soldiers and police officers with automatic rifles dominate the street. Brussels is mourning.
On Tuesday the 22d of March 2016 a bomb explodes at the check in desk of American Airlines in Brussels Airport, not much later a second bomb goes off. While all eyes are focused on the airport a third bomb explodes at the Maalbeek Metro stop. A location that is very close to several EU buildings. Train stations are closed down and evacuated while a robot dismantles two more bombs in the Wetstreet. Later that day police will find another bomb at the airport, the heaviest of them all. It is unclear if it was left behind or did not go off.
The day after
Belgium is quiet, the streets of Brussels are remarkable empty and flags are half-masted all over the city. Though, life did not seize to be. There is no fear and no hostility either from the ones that are out. People talk to each other, share their grieve and shake their heads over this tragedy. But they perceive it as not else then a tragedy. On the day after the attacks Belgium mourns the victims of an incident, not a terrorist attack.
Jean, a Brussels resident, was in Paris when the attacks took place. Yesterday he was close to the metro where the bomb exploded. Today I find him near the station to show is respect in the nation minute of silence. Jean tells me that his heart weeps for those who lost their lives and those who got injured, but his heart also weeps for the Muslim population.
“Yes. I feel this is a personal attack; an attack to Belgium, an attack to Europe. But it is also an attack against the Muslims. There are many Muslims living here in Brussels. This is a problem of us all. We need to stand up; we need to speak with each other. We can only solve this problem if we are strong. Together.”
Jean wanted the families to know that Belgium is mourning with them. He wishes them strength in processing their loss.
Erica and Stanislava
After the one minute of silence I speak with Erica; a woman who carries a candle and lights this for the victims, and Stanislava; a woman from Serbia, who cannot help but relive her past. Listen to an impression of those conversations here.
“They’re not gonna take us”
The people of Belgium are calm. Sad but calm. Their daily life continues on even after the horrible attacks that took place. There is no room for fear; there is no room for hate. The Belgium people do not hate Muslims; they only resent terrorists.
What do the Belgium people fear? That the hatred against Muslims will grow and that there will be no room for debate. Terrorists want them to fear and hate so they can divide and conquer but instead the Belgium people grieve and cling to each other, Muslims included. The terrorist attacks were a failure. They only build bridges between different groups of people who will all stand up together. Terrorists are not driving us separately, they are uniting us. They’re not gonna take us.