Exchange to change June 2016 - Page 6

the day terrorist attacks in brussels O n the morning of 22 March 2016, suicide bombings occurred in the Brussels metro and international airport. The deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium’s history killed 32 people, including 15 foreigners representing countries from all over the world. It was a black day, not only for Belgian citizens, but also for the international community working, studying and traveling in our beloved country. We hope that these events will not divide society and that we will embrace and respect each other. Our thoughts also go out to all alumni living in countries which face (terrorist) violence. Where were you when you heard about the attacks and what was your first reaction? Valeria: For almost 13 years I commuted from Antwerp to Brussels for work. The week of the 22/03, I was on the train when a very good friend called around 8:50; very worried because she had just heard about the attacks at the airport. I started checking the news on my phone… the next station was Brussels North. I tried to stay calm, to be rational and decided to go to work as usual; but I felt scared, anxious and I started to feel a terrible stomach ache. 6 Exchange to change May 2016 How did you experience the day of the terrorist attacks in Brussels? IOB staff, students and alumni testify We asked Kristof Titeca (IOB lecturer), Dries Boeye (DEM alumnus, 20122013), Valeria Lemaitre (Globalisation alumna, 2000-2001), Erik Akede Metougue (current Governance student) and Naisula Lepariyo (current DEM student) for a short testimonial on how they experienced the day of the attacks and how it might affect their personal or professional life. Kristof: I had just arrived at IOB, and was preparing to go to class. My first reaction was see if any loved ones were hurt. Dries: I was at home in Antwerp, preparing to leave for work, when I heard it on the radio and a few seconds later read it on my smartphone. The news made me deeply sad and bitter but not scared or shocked. I left for work and followed the news throughout most of the day. Naisula: We were in class when the attack happened, I got notification from the BBC breaking news read ‘11 feared dead in Brussels’. It felt like a dream that I could not wake up from. Soon after, the notification on the second attack came in, and I knew Belgium was under attack. During break we all stood outside with fear in our eyes, no one knew the magnitude of the attack but it was clear we were worried. How did you experience the day of the attacks (22/03) and the following days? Dries: Very intense. As a youth social worker, I work and live every day among underprivileged kids, teenagers and young adults. It left none of them unaffected. When they arrived that day I had to answer questions ranging from “Will there be attacks at my school?”, “How come people are so outraged by these attacks, and less by every day violence in Palestine, Syria or Nigeria?” to “Can I still be a Muslim?”. Kristof: Partly in disbelief about the attacks, but at the same time it was also expected: given the earlier reports about the role of Brussels in the Paris attacks, we knew something like this could happen. Valeria: When we arrived in the Central Station in Brussels it was 9:10, we had 10’ delay. I walked towards the metro station when people started to come in the opposite direction at a fast pace. They talked about a possible attack in a nearby station, but nobody was sure of it. I was really scared and I did not know what to do. I was thankful the train had a delay that day, otherwise I could have been passing through Maalbeek at the time of the attacks. Trains and public transport stopped working by then; I could not go back home nor reach my office. I was incommunicado, many friends and colleagues tried to reach me, but I could not answer the phone nor send text messages because the network was overloaded. In a matter of minutes there were helicopters flying into the city center, police cars driving at high speed in all directions and ambulance sirens everywhere, it seemed like a bad dream….