March 22, 2016: A Day of Terror

Posted on Thursday, Mar 24, 2016

Night is falling in Brussels and my fingers are still trembling slightly as I write these words... honestly, I don't even know what to say in a situation like this one. As my adrenaline and shock wear off while the sun goes down, the horrible reality of today's events begins to set in.
I feel sick. Disgusted. My heart aches like it rarely has before. For a moment, I'll forget what took place this morning as I go about my daily routine, but then all I have to do is glance outside, log onto social media, or listen to the sirens wailing in the distance.
Today Brussels was attacked by truly evil people who took the lives of innocents in a desperate and cowardly attempt to garner fame, attention, and supposed martyrdom. As of 7:00 pm, the death toll stands at 30 people, with more than 230 injured. Hearing eyewitness accounts sends chills down my spine. The very streets along which I have peacefully strolled so many times, the metro stations within which I've travelled, the beautiful, complicated, multicultural city I've grown to love... all is in chaos. Flags are at half staff. The terror alert level has been re-elevated to 4.
We are in mourning.
There was a moment this morning, as soon as the second explosion occurred just down the street from my flat, when I felt a moment of panic and sat quietly down onto my bed, watching the police and ambulances race by my bedroom window and hearing the reporters on the news describe the chilling carnage unfolding less than ten minutes away. I wondered if more attacks were to come, if today would end up being my last, if I'd ever have the chance to hug my family and friends again and tell them how much I loved them.
Thankfully, I am safe and sound tonight. Although I am grieving deeply, but so many innocent people have lost their lives or those of loved ones today. This was a heartless and cruel act of terrorism and the victims and their families deserve our condolences and our respect, as well as all the first responders who placed their lives on the line to intervene and attend to those who were suffering.
In the aftermath of an event such as this, there is only one thing that troubles me worse than the death and destruction which have occurred: the disrespect and selfishness demonstrated by those who blatantly capitalize upon others' misery and loss in order to achieve personal and/or political gain. Yes, Brussels is a complicated city. Yes, there are problems that need to be addressed. Yes, there are things which could have been done better and should be improved in the future in light of today's events. It's easy to cast blame. But, frankly, some of the comments and posts that have come to my attention over the past twelve hours disgust me.
All Muslims are not terrorists. All Europeans (and Americans, for that matter) do not hate Muslims. All liberals do not stand by idly in the name of tolerance while radicalism goes unchecked. All conservatives are not ethnocentric, racist, uneducated radicals who run around toting rifles and screaming for bloodshed and a ban on Muslim migrants, in particular (since every single one is obviously a terrorist or sympathizer in disguise).
It is normal to be frightened, to be worried, to be angry, to be sad and to want to ensure that innocent lives are spared in the future and that such gruesome bombings never occur again. A lot of people are hurting and frustrated right now, but please demonstrate some decency and respect when posting on social media and refrain from gloating, harsh generalizations, and violent backlashes. While it is true that evil should be punished and Europe must be better protected against those who would do her people harm, the very last thing we should do is combat barbarism and hatred with more of the same.
President Obama and I might not agree on every ideological front or aspect of public policy (whether foreign or domestic), but I do wholeheartedly echo his statement on the Brussels attacks earlier today: “This is yet another reminder that the world must unite. We must be together, regardless of nationality or race or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.” No matter our nationality, religion, race, political preferences, or ethnicity, we all share a responsibility in making the world a better place, preserving freedom, speaking out against injustice, and uniting against acts of terrorism, regardless of where they occur and who is behind them.
Bruxelles, my beloved home away from home, you remain in my thoughts and prayers. My heart goes out to all those affected by this tragedy.
Evil will not win in the end. Together, we are stronger. Together, we shall overcome.

Margaret McIntyre
Centre International de Formation Europeenne (CIFE)

Spring 2016, Brussels, Belgium