Monday, March 28, 2016

The Bombings in Brussels

I knew something was wrong last Tuesday morning when the phone rang earlier than my relatives and friends expect me to be up, though that day I was.  When I saw my dad’s name in caller ID I worried it was about his health or my step-mom’s. 

But no, he was saying, “Don’t worry, Sammy’s all right, but there have been some bombings in Brussels.” It took just a second for the alarm bells to start ringing inside my head, combined with a huge sense of relief.  My son, God bless him, had sent an email around to the whole family at 4 a.m. our time and my Dad knew I might not get to my email for a while.

It was horrible, all those people killed and injured on an otherwise ordinary day, just going about their business, with the mundaneness of the daily commute to work and the bustle of the airport.  It shattered all the illusions I had had about Brussels being a plum assignment, a “safe” assignment as my son’s first tour of duty in the US Foreign Service.  At his graduation ceremony last fall from the Foreign Service Institute I listened as the assignments of his classmates rolled off the speaker’s tongue, places I knew were plagued by civil war, religious violence, and more, and I thought how lucky we were and how scared those parents of his classmates must be.

This was an anger-inspiring reminder that nowhere is “safe” anymore, and that includes our own home, the US.  Millions of people across the world already knew this, living with terrorism and other violence on a daily basis, but so many of us were also so na├»ve.

I had just talked to Sammy the day before as he threw together a stir-fry for dinner and we happily talked of what was going on in our lives. The next morning I was running to my computer to read that he was safe and sound but that his office, where he was by then hunkered down, was close enough to the airport that he had heard the explosions.  I wrote him back, told him I loved him bunches, then went to the TV to get more information and to grieve with all the others watching.

Thursday he called me to check in again and told me that one of his colleagues had just found out her husband had been one of those killed—more than two days she had been frantic with not knowing.  It’s like a small town, he said, everyone knows someone who was at the airport or in the subway station. 

I have nothing wise to say, nothing that makes sense of the senseless, except love those you love fiercely and hold in your hearts the loved ones of those lost in Belgium last week, and around the world every day.