I had few worries when I decided to go to sleep Monday evening. I sent a message home like I always do, to let them know I’m all okay. I was already thinking about what I would have for breakfast. Early in the morning on Tuesday, my life changed. The morning came way too soon, as always. I decided to stay in bed for a little longer. Then I took my phone from the bedside table and I scrolled through my emails, when suddenly I saw the breaking news about the attacks in Belgium. My heart stopped for a minute and my stomach felt like I had stones for breakfast. Heavy. But the day here in North Country still had to start, so I woke up and got myself ready for this day. Tears formed in my eyes and my disbelief changed into sadness the more I read about the events. On the way to the radio station I stared out of the window. The sun was shinning and the world looked normal. Nothing changed here. Fear took over because many people I know take that metro line everyday and friends were posting about their travel plans. I felt selfish for wishing that none of them was among the victims, but I kept hoping.
Home is no longer the same because they are hurting and my Belgian heart bleeds. My country is mourning and I can’t mourn with them. I kept telling myself to smile and be brave. In the station, the news was on and of course they were talking about the attacks. Tears started to run over my face. But the support I received from all the people here was amazing. People hugged me and gave me a chance to talk about how I felt. They, you, Americans know how it feels to live in fear. For many people who met me during the last months, Belgium is no longer a far-from-home story. They know how much I love my country and how much the attacks are hurting me. All the support I got, I had a hard time not bursting out in tears. The love they gave me helped me to see light in the darkness.
I am far away from the people I love, but that does not mean I have to deal with this pain alone. But no matter how much support I received, I felt homesick. I did not want to be a part of the hell that Belgians are going through now, but I wanted to be with the people I love. I wanted to hug my family and my friends, to be able to stand by their side against terrorism. My mom posted a message on Facebook yesterday: “My hearts goes out to all the parents who are having a kid in the world, not home.” I cried again. Whenever a tragic event happens, you just want to be home with your family. You want to hug them and feel them, so you know they are really still there. Hugs stand for hope and love. And in dark days as these, I needed to feel that their was still more love than hate.
When I woke up the morning after, I felt like I had a hangover. The first thing I tried was to deny what happened, until I realized yesterday was no bad dream but reality. Victims are no longer strangers when they get identified. The more the hours go by, the more I am sure that I did not know any of the victims, but the pain still stays the same. I am not feeling anger, because who would I be angry at? The terrorists? God? Anger won’t help anyway, so I stick with sadness and disbelief: that this world still has to deal with death, murder and pain, that we did not learn from the past. The next days will be hard and I will always remember where I was when little Belgium got attacked. Victims are not dead as long as we do not forget about them. I do carry a bit of fear in my heart right now, but I refuse to let the fear control my life. Terrorism won’t win unless we let them. Love must be strong now, so share the love tonight, because – yes this is sounding harsh – you might not get another chance to do so. In ten weeks I will head back to Belgium. I will land on the same airport that is touched by violence now, but I am not afraid. I believe in hope, love, and peace. As the wise wizard Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found in the darkest place, if only one remembers to put the light on.” Let us be the light in this world.
Melissa Callaert is working as an intern at North Country Public Radio for the Spring 2016 semester.