I’m going to talk about what happened on March 22, 2016 in Brussels and how it affected me. We landed at the Brussels airport at 8:10 am on March 22nd (my mother’s birthday), and as we were taxiing to our gate the plane just stopped. The pilot came on the air and told us we had to hold where we were as there had been an “incident” in the terminal. A couple of minutes later, he came on and said there had been an explosion, and then another one.
Terrorists had bombed the airport, the very one we were waiting to go through. All I could think of was my family at home and how upsetting this would be when they woke up and found out about this, and put two and two together. Bob and his business partner did their share to get this out to the media, tweeting and then talking with news sources all over the world, giving them play by play on what was going on.
All of a sudden, we’re rushed off the plane and led to a hangar where we mill about, talking with others from our plane, and the other two or three planes that had also landed right before the bombs went off. Not to mention, off to the side, were people wrapped up in blankets, injured, stunned and being looked to. Up to this point, I’m not panicking, I have a drop spindle and knitting with me (clothes were in the belly of the plane and would be unavailable for five days), which helped me a lot and also enabled me to strike up conversations with people who wanted to know what I was doing.
After an hour or so of this, we’re talking to an airline rep, who gets our names, which hotel/city we’re going to and we’re free to catch the shuttle to the train station to get to Eindhoven, where the conference we were there for was happening. By 6:00 that evening, we were at the hotel, the guys were able to get themselves ready for the next two and a half days and we soldiered on.
They did great, I’m so proud of the company Bob works for, they do exceptional work and are respected in their field. Me? Well, I thought I was doing okay until the next day when I ventured out for a shirt, toiletries and essentials. I got lost. Folks, I’m not one to get lost. But I guess with I wasn’t quite all there yet and started to panic. Thought the city was a grid pattern, but nope, it is a spoke pattern. I must have scared many people, children included, with my crazed look. I finally stopped, took a breath and asked a kind gentleman biking by where the train station was. He pointed me in the right direction, told me to take a left and it would be in front of me. I did it, I got back to the hotel and collapsed into a hysterical mess. The next day I just stayed in my room except for lunch and knitted and read my kindle. The third day meant checking out of the hotel, putting our stuff behind the desk and waiting for the guys to come back from the final day of the conference. I couldn’t bring myself to walk out the door alone. I was terrified. There was a very wonderful lady, Janice Bunnei, who saw my Facebook updates and sensed something underneath. Through private messages all the way from the west coast of Canada, she kept me company and “talked me down” from the ledge of panic I was teetering on since the guys had left that morning. Even though she works the graveyard shift and should have been in bed. I didn’t want to tell Bob because he was doing his job but she reminded me that he would be very upset if I didn’t tell him what was wrong. When he checked in just a few minutes later, I told him what was going on with me, he was able to wrap up and come sit with me, then we ventured out together. BTW, we still didn’t have any luggage.
We went to Brugges, stayed in a lovely hotel, the guys had meetings for two days and we were able to explore the city after they were done. I was still not able to leave the hotel alone. The last evening in Brugges and we still didn’t have our luggage. Bear in mind, we had been talking with the rep assigned to us from the airline at least three times a day, trying to get everyone’s luggage from the Brussels terminal where it was being held. I lost it with the airline rep who had said we didn’t exist, and would have to wait another 24 hours to get into the queue for service. Two of our team were heading back to the states in the morning which meant they might have to wait at least two more weeks to see any of their stuff. I lost it. Hung up, called the embassy, cried hysterically into the ear of the very kind lady there, she asked I give her an hour to see what she could do. Within 30 minutes, I received a call from the gentleman on the ground dealing with this awful event, and two hours later, everyone had their luggage.
After that, Bob and I along with a friend/business partner who was getting his plane that evening, went on to Amsterdam. The city was wonderful and the time together was the balm we needed to start healing from the huge scare/trauma we had gone through.
It took a lot of will for me to get on the plane but it was the only way we were going to get home. We were lucky to be on KLM and the attendants were the most kind people we had ever had the pleasure to travel with. We had forgotten to let them know about my food restrictions but they found me a meal I could eat, they kept the wine flowing and would stop to talk with us and kept us smiling.
We went through the most terrifying thing since 9/11 and this was so much closer and so much more terrifying on a personal level. The feelings of loss of control and the realization it could all change in a second became all too real. But, through it all, we met people of all races, religions and lifestyles and never once felt threatened by them. It was a radical group that did the bombing, not these people. The levels of kindness we met while in Europe will be what I hold onto for the next four years. Things are changing, yes and there are scary possibilities on the horizon, but we have to believe that one man will not be the one to bring us down. Only we can do that to ourselves. There are saner people in Washington and I can only hope he will have advisors to keep him well informed on what’s best for us. It saddens me to see people i know speak of things such as “lets hope he’s assassinated” and these protests that should be peaceful, are not.
There is love, there is kindness and there is the ability to show that. That’s what I’m going to hold on to.