Two years ago, shortly after declaring “I never get sick,” I fell incredibly ill with whatever was making the rounds at my daughter’s school. I was supposed to spend the week at the embassy showing and selling my prints of Belgian sights, but while loading my car on Monday, I broke down into tears. The idea of trucking my stuff from the parking garage to the embassy store just seemed way too much for me and I knew I wouldn’t just be able to push through like I normally would. So I called to postpone the sale and curled up in the fetal position on the couch.
Next morning was no better and I knew there was no salvaging the week for Arklahoma Muse. My daughter was also down for the count, so we got as comfortable as possible. At some point that morning, Facebook posts started popping up about a possible bomb going off at the airport. And then a little while later someone thought they heard something had happened at a metro station. Knowing that the city was about to go on lockdown (Brussels came to a standstill for three days after the attacks in Paris), my daughter and I ran to the grocery store to stock up on essentials.
Turns out that terrorists had indeed set off a bomb at the Brussels airport as well as one in a metro car at the Maalbeek station (near EU buildings and various Embassies). The chaos at the airport, reported in the news outlets, was heartbreaking. No one knew who was hurt, who was dead and who was safe. Public transportation in the city came to a standstill and travel by foot was about the only option for most residents for the remainder of the day.
I can remember thinking to myself that if the bomber had attacked the metro just one hour or so earlier, the body count would have been so much higher with the morning rush. Then it hit me. I was supposed to be on that line, at about that time, on my way into the embassy for the second day of my sale. Now the train that was hit was the line 5, and I traveled on the 1 line. But the two lines converge for several stops through the center of Brussels. The bomber jumped on the first train that came into the station and it could just as well have been the Line 1 train instead of the 5. I have never been so glad to be so ill. My guardian angels were at it again in their funny way.
I was too sick to make my way downtown for the vigils and the peaceful protests that told the world that we would not be cowed by terrorism. I was too sick to go downtown to photograph the streets that were empty except for soldiers and other crazy photographers. And it was a couple of weeks before I could muster up the gumption to visit the memorial at the Maalbeek station.
When the dust settled, we lost friends, colleagues and family members from our Tri-Mission community in the attacks. Some colleagues swore off ever riding the metro again and those family members who were already afraid to go downtown just avoided it even more. But I refused to let random terror dictate what I would do and whether I would continue to enjoy the city I had come to love.
I still stand by my conviction that life is full of unpredictability and that crazy people hell bent on causing destruction can hit ANYWHERE. Events in our own country, including in places where violence rarely erupts, have proven to me over and over again that you never know what is going to happen or when. I will continue to enjoy the things I love and I would go back to Brussels in a heartbeat. I send much love to those affected by the attacks and to Brussels in general. May nothing like this ever strike there again.