The train pulled into the station and as the doors swept open we felt the brisk wind hit our faces. I stepped off, and listened to my sister’s conversation with my dad over the phone,
“The hotel is right next to the station.” he says, trying to comfort my mother’s nerves about travelling without him “It’s easy to get to from here.”.
We hop in a taxi anyway, the quick ride gives us a glimpse of Brussels, the large city has the feeling of a quaint little town, with its European architecture and interesting townspeople. After checking into the hotel, we roam around a quiet little street full of shops big and small and do our damage, hoping we can fit our findings into our suitcases. We don’t even feel the bitter cold while walking down the never ending line of shops, having our share of Belgian waffles and chocolates and taking in the scenery. The day ends with dinner at one of the only restaurants we can find, ironically named “The Boston Grill”, it gives us a little reminder of home, and how we don’t want to go back just yet, so we just live in the moment of the night. As we return to our hotel, we discuss our plans for the next day, the places we want to go and the things we want to see, before the jetlag puts us to sleep nice and early.
The next day starts just as we had planned, up and out the door around 8:00. It was the first sunny day we have had that entire trip and we were strolling through the little town, seeing everything in a new light. We sat down at a small café and enjoyed our breakfast as the employee at the counter watched the news.
A woman comes over to us and asks “How do you feel about what has happened this morning”.
We look at her confused, from what we know nothing has happened so my mother asks, “Excuse me?”.
“The explosions?” she asks “at the airport? I’m sorry I thought you had heard.” she explains “There was an explosion reported at the airport about 15 minutes ago and I was wondering what people were thinking.”
The couple next to us listens in, also not familiar with what has happened. Suddenly, all of our minds were racing, we didn’t know if it was a mechanical malfunction, an accident, or even some act of terrorism, all we knew was that there were explosions, at the airport, and we were only a mile from it. We silently walk the short distance back to our hotel, not knowing what to say, only wanting to know what was going on.
When we get to the lobby everyone is huddled by the television and we hear the news say “We have come to the conclusion that this, in fact, was an act of terrorism. Two explosions have occurred at Zaventem Airport in Brussels.” My mother, sister and I go up to our room and turn on the television, we do not know what to do, so we wait, all we could do was wait. The lobby filled with passerbys just trying to find somewhere to go, and the concierge's desk is swarmed with people requesting taxis and cars, anything that will bring them somewhere else.
Minutes later, in our room, we listen and watch the news, another explosion has occurred at the train station. The sounds of ambulances flood through the room going to the hospital next door and my mom is on the phone with my dad discussing plans for a car to bring us to his office in Eindhoven, where he is waiting for us, and everything is starting to calm down and we feel like it is all getting figured out. There is no sense of chaos between us, only confusion in our voices and fear of what is going on, what we know and don’t know.
My sister and I waited in our confined hotel room while my mom watched the news in the lobby. She came back to the room with news that we would be having some guests. She explained that she met a woman from the U.S. in the lobby with her son that came into the city for the day on the train after the one with the explosive. My sister and I were not surprised because she does gracious things like this all the time. Always helping anyone and everyone that looked like they were in need of a helping hand, so for the time being they would stay in our hotel room until they knew their next move. When they came in, we didn't know what to expect, my mom befriended everyone, so we have to rely on her good judgment. Kay and her son Michael introduced themselves, they traveled to Amsterdam off of Kay’s benefits from working for JetBlue and just wanted to spend a day in Brussels, caught in a bout of bad luck and recognized the American owned hotel we were staying at.
Having them there lightened the mood, Michael being about my sister’s age, we told stories to keep our mind off of the constant drone of ambulance sirens outside of our door. Suddenly we saw all of the officers outside of our window running in our direction, near the door they caught a man and handcuffed him, taking him around the corner and out of our sight. We realized that was the man responsible for the explosion at the airport, had he come into our hotel, who knows what would have happened, and everyone’s nerves jumped at the thought. Later on, the events we saw before us were displayed on the television and they knew this man was one of the bombers. We felt a sense of relief even with the events still surrounding us, and with the news and our new friends, we all felt better.
My dad called with the news that his office in Eindhoven was sending a car for us and that it could bring Kay and Michael back to Amsterdam. The ride to Eindhoven was filled with lighthearted talk of our families and our lives at home, Kay told us about their house in New Orleans and how eerily similar our lives and families were. We reached the Belgian border about an hour into our trip and as we passed by there was a sense of relief, that although there was still trouble in the world around us, we were leaving the chaos we had experienced.
We reached where my dad was staying in Eindhoven and he was just as happy to see us as we were to see him. We tried not to let what happened affect the rest of our vacation but we all felt the tension every time we heard breaking news on the television or as we walked through the airport on our way home. But we have not let that stop us from traveling or experiencing new places, and we have kept in touch with Kay and her family. Out of such a horrible incident, we have gained new friends and new perspectives, seeing firsthand how the world unites after fear and anger has broken it apart.