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'My heart goes out to Brussels'

In the wake of Tuesday's attacks, Concordia exchange student Meagan Boisse reflects on her experience of a safe, sunny city
March 24, 2016
By Meagan Boisse


Undergrad Meagan Boisse writes the 'Concordian abroad' dispatches from Aarhus, Denmark, where she is studying at the Danish School of Media and Journalism.

When I visited Brussels last week, I was immediately struck by its beauty and diversity.

The gold-encrusted buildings of the Grand Place seemed to sing when hit by sunlight. I felt totally at ease as I sipped my pint of Affligem and nonchalantly reclined on a terrace in one of the most lovely city squares I’d ever laid eyes on.

I smiled at my classmate Sarah, with whom I’d arrived a day earlier. She too was relaxed, bathing in the afternoon sun, taking in the sights and sounds.

That was on Thursday, five days before the calamitous events that shook Belgium’s capital.

'I was so close to the attacks without knowing it'

Sarah and I spent most of our time in Brussels drinking coffee and eating.

We had come with the intention of having a stress-free vacation filled with waffles and chocolate, two Belgian staples. We even dedicated an entire day to hassling chocolatiers for free samples in les Galeries Royales.

There was a moment when, in the sunshine of another café patio, we talked about potentially extending our stay and leaving on Tuesday.

We had come to the city with an open-ended ticket, but ultimately settled on a Sunday flight back to Denmark.

That once trivial conversation has taken on new meaning after this week’s airport and metro attacks.

I woke up Tuesday to a message from a classmate asking if I was still in Brussels and whether I was okay.

I opened Google and there it was: the morning’s devastation — headlines citing the explosions, the lockdown and a mounting death toll. I started receiving more and more messages from friends and family from my side of the world.

Safely tucked inside my dorm in Denmark, I was shaken by the news. I had been so close to such an attack without knowing it. It was unsettling to think a couple days ago I had so carelessly strolled those city streets.

I thought of one woman Sarah and I had spoken to outside the train station.

During our conversation she mentioned how Brussels was probably one of the safest places to be at the moment given the intense police presence — there were armed soldiers on practically every street.  The Paris terror suspect had just been apprehended.

She was from Brussels and lived in the city centre. I hope her feelings of safety have not been totally destroyed by these assassinations in her backyard.

My heart goes out to Brussels: to the waffle shops, to the night cafés — to the friendly people who made my stay memorable. My thoughts also go to Ankara and the Ivory Coast, and to everyone who’s been made a victim of terror this past month.

I think of those who have been taken from this world because of fear and hatred.

I feel the reverberations of Brussels’s bomb blasts, and I know, under slightly different circumstances, it could have been me or someone I love. 

Support is available for Concordians through Counselling and Psychological Services and Chaplaincy Services. International students are also invited to visit Concordia’s International Students Office to discuss any concerns.


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