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What It Was Like in Brussels During the Terrorist Attacks

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 22/03/2016 Quora

What was it like to be in Brussels during the March 22nd attacks? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.Answer by Simon Souris, Belgian citizen, on Quora:At 8:30 am local time this morning, I received a notification. I glanced at my phone thinking it was one of the usual morning newsletters I'm subscribed to. On my screen: "Breaking news (...) Brussels Airport hit by blasts." I didn't immediately understand what I had just read. A few moments later, my phone went crazy: "(...) 11 people dead, 25 injured", "Brussels Airport evacuated after two explosions", "'several dead people' after an attack." This was serious. Very serious. My father called me from Spain when he saw a TV broadcast of what was happening. As I didn't know what was going on -- I live in the city center, approximately 15km from the airport -- I went straight to my computer and social media. At that point I began to realize the magnitude of the situation.
Here is a before and after picture of the Brussels airport. I chose one that is not too explicit.
While checking the horrifying videos and pictures of today's attack on Brussels Airport published on Twitter and in live coverage by Belgian media outlets, I received another couple of emails around 9:30 am. The Maelbeek subway station was hit. A bomb had been detonated. Some people even spoke of other explosions in Schuman and Arts-Loi -- it later turned out it was the echo of the one that blew up in Maelbeek. To understand what this means, a bit of geography is needed. Those metro stations are at the very heart of the city (see this picture).
To give you a better sense of the distance between the place where the attack took place and the major city buildings, here is a real-life view of what people see when walking or driving on this important street.
Around 10:00 am or so, live reports and first interviews were coming from the airport and the Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat, the main street in this area, binding, more or less, the European district to the official residence and office of the Belgian Prime Minister located at 16 Rue de la Loi. I could hear sirens all over the city; they weren't very close or loud, though. There were just more of them than usual.
From then on, I tried to reach out to my friends and family. Belgium is a small country and a lot of people commute to Brussels daily or have to go there on a regular basis.
As it turned out, my brother, who lives almost 100km away, had come to Brussels to visit our Federal Parliament -- 364 safe days in a year and he had to come today. Even worse, an entire class from his school was at the bombed airport, checking in for a school trip to Prague (source: Une classe du Collège Sainte-Marie à Saint-Ghislain était à Zaventem, en partance pour Prague: «Tout le monde est sain et sauf mais nous sommes passés très près du drame...»). They lived through the whole thing. They heard shots, and then the detonations. There were two of them, apparently. They ran. They tried to survive. They saw chaos: dust, destroyed windows, people on the ground. Two of my brother's friends ran so far they only realized they were safe when they had reached a farmer's field near the airport. Another boy from his school was so shocked he had to be taken care of by medical and psychological teams.
Friends of mine who work as photojournalists took their cameras and went to cover the event. I bet they never expected to see such a thing when when they woke up this morning.
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