Chronicle of an (un)expected attack
On March 22 , the ominous predictions became a reality. Brussels was hit by two bomb attacks, one in the airport and one in the Maelbeek metro station.
On that fateful morning I, like thousands of other commuters, passed through this station. A couple of minutes after the attacks, my smartphone started buzzing like crazy. The first message was a newsflash ‘Bomb attack in Brussels metro’, the second a text from my father ‘Are you OK?’.
How will the city and its inhabitants respond to this new reality? What remains visible once the dust has settled?
Six months and another attack later, I begin to understand there are no comprehensive answers. Are we dealing with a large-scale plot or a lone wolf attack? With battle hardened jihadists? Or is it simply a radicalized teenager with cruel ambitions? Due to the ever-evolving nature of terrorism, we have to keep adapting our response.
New rules are imposed and, depending on the enforcer, interpreted in various ways. Some police officers treat photographers like potential suspects. And in the eye of the general public, we are sometimes too much searching for easy cliché’s. ‘Haven’t you seen enough blood, son of #*!%&’ an elderly woman yelled, while I was photographing the aftermath of the last attack.
One gets used to almost everything; soldiers patrolling the streets are now part of everyday life and so are the many (fake) bomb scares.
Meanwhile, the flowers of the ad hoc memorial at the Bourse plaza are removed and turned into compost; the personal messages laden with grief and hope, found a new home in the city archives.
On the metro, the everyday hubbub of giggling girls, the typical cocktail of languages and smartphones yelling ‘Look at me’, have replaced the eerie silence, which reigned the carriages after the attacks.
In countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, these events are almost commonplace. Now we can only imagine the devastating impact on the lives of these people. But hopefully, after a couple of years, the sole reminder will be the annual remembrance ceremony. Unless…