There are moments in the life of everyone – you will never forget where you stayed with whom and what you felt at that specific moment. The fall of the Berlin Wall on 09 November 1989 was such a moment, air-planes destroying the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 another one. For us, in Brussels, the 22 March 2016 is as well such an unforgettable day.
In the morning of that day, suicide bombings occurred at the airport in Zaventem and in the Maalbeek metro station. 35 citizen (from 15 countries), including the three suicide bombers, were killed, and more than 300 people were injured. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility.
Now – with the distance of two years – we can distinguish three periods:
On 22 March and during the following days, it was difficult to speak to someone without mentioning different aspects of the attacks: sharing where you have been yourself at that moment; mentioning that someone you know has been either eye-witness, injured or killed; asking for details; commenting on the ability of the Belgian administration to deal with the case …
A certain number of my friends and colleagues developed a sort of phobia; avoiding public transport or looking suspicious at persons who – by their outer appearance – would fit into the perception of being another suicide bomber …
After a certain time, the Brussels attacks became “one subject among others” and the aspects, which still haunts others and me, are the open questions: What have been the motivations of those Mohamed Abrini, Ibrahim and Khlaid El Bakraoui, Osama Krayem and Najim Laachraoui? Where have their families failed? How to avoid looking for scapegoats? How can our society cope with those individuals – and the dangers linked to them – without falling into the logic of a 1984-style law and order state? Where we have failed in concrete integration mechanisms? Why have so many different forms of empathy developed? How to avoid vicious circles …
For 22 March 2019, I have the following three wishes:
1) That the Belgian government will have modified the legislation to honour and treat on an equal level all victims of the attacks (it is inhumane that injured foreign citizen living outside Belgium are discriminated).
2) That the European Union will put forward concrete proposals how to guarantee standards for victims which fulfill the basic demands of dignity, equality and efficiency (it is already a promising sign that the Commission President has nominated the former Belgian Justice Minister to draft an Action Plan).
3) That one of the survivors of one of the attacks (Brussels, Paris …), will publicly apologize …
PS: I forgot to mention. At 09.11 on 22 March 2016, I have been at the entrance of the metro station Maalbeek, when I heard the explosion, saw the smoke and some injured persons coming up the stairs. I saw as well that a man in his twenties ran away, zigzagging to the other side of Rue de la Loi, jumping into a parked car and driving away quite speedy.