Scenes From Belgium's New Normal
Soldiers in military fatigues holding machine guns on train platforms, limited subway access with bag searches at each entrance.
Hooded federal police, frantic citizens trying to get to their destination before dark and the metro shut down.
A Belgian military truck parked in downtown Brussels. Credit: Adeline Sire
Posters with faces of loved ones unaccounted for on poles. “Have you seen my wife? Have you seen my sister?” Circles of candles lit with flowers and notes, grief and tears and pain, captured by television crews from around the world. This is Brussels, the day after a major terrorist attack.
Is it the new normal in Europe?
Tonight, more than four months after Jihadists killed 130 people in Paris, I am witnessing these scenes of heavy security, visible anguish and rallying crowds, in Brussels. The crowds on Brussels’ Place de la Bourse, look just like the crowds on Paris’ place de la République last November.
Candles are lit in memory of the victims of the Brussels attacks. Credit: Adeline Sire
Last week, I was sitting at the terrace of a Paris café that was attacked on November 13. Fifteen people were killed on that street that night. I was thinking about Parisians finding their way back to their beloved terraces and enjoying the sight of the Cambodian restaurant across the street, struck during the attack, welcoming a cheerful crowd for its own reopening.
A couple of streets away, Iranians were celebrating the arrival of the Persian new year. Rebirth and renewal seemed to be in the air.
Tonight in Brussels, from the Gare du Midi railway station to Place de la Bourse, where hundreds of people had gathered chanting “no to hatred” or “I am Brussels,” there is a display of strength and togetherness. Yet what causes these scenes to repeat would indicate that there is too much “otherness” in Europe.
I think about these scenes and about the decades that may be needed to see us through this storm. And I am torn.
But I am choosing not to lose hope.
Youth display a modified Belgian flag during a rally at the old Belgian Stock Exchange. Credit: Adeline Sire
From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International