There is no doubt that the city of Brussels has been rocked by Tuesday’s attacks. However, as often happens with events like this, an overwhelming sense of unity and solidarity pervades the city now. Belgians are showing their resilience as they grieve and come to terms with their loss. Like Parisians did in November, they are showing their ‘révolte’ against the fear that such attacks attempt to sew.
Marie van Boxel, IFE assistant in the Brussels program who has been in Brussels for the past few days spoke to the feeling on the ground in the city. She noted especially the difference between November after the attacks in Paris and subsequent raids in Brussels, when there was an overwhelming sense of tension, and today. She said the overall feeling was not one of panic, or fear, but rather grief, solidarity, and defiance.
While everyone is reacting in their own way, choosing what feels best for their safety, life in the city is continuing. On Wednesday morning people returned to work. Public transportation is up and running, though traffic on lines that pass through the Maelbeek station are disrupted. Starting the afternoon of the attacks, people gathered in the plaza outside the Bourse to write messages of solidarity and defiance in chalk. By the next morning, the entire plaza was covered. Yesterday, thousands gathered for a moment of silence to commemorate the victims.
While events are still unfolding, and suspects are being sought and arrested, it is important to remember that Brussels has not ground to a halt. In the news terms like ‘lockdown’, ‘manhunt’ and ‘closing borders’ can give the impression of a city and country where everyone is hiding behind their shutters. The reality is that while the authorities are searching for and detaining suspects, and passports are being checked at the border—unlike under normal Schengen regulations—life goes on.
In that spirit, IFE students, after a few days of retreat and reflection in Anvers, have returned to Brussels, and to their internships today. Integrated as they are into their local community, it is important they are able to process these events with their Belgian friends and colleagues as well as fellow students.