Monday night, Hubs was sitting on the couch and asked me, “Would you go to Brussels again?”
“Well, I had been there before we went, and we all had a great time there, but I’m not sure I would need to go again.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I’m thinking more about the fact that it’s become a hotbed of terrorism. The arrest of the guy connected to Paris a few days ago. So much coming out of Belgium regarding terrorism. If we were planning the trip again, would you go there?”
This was Monday night. Tuesday morning, I woke up to a WhatsApp message from a friend in London – “Bombing in Brussels. Not sure how I feel about going there this weekend.”
My heart broke.
We left Paris exactly two weeks before the terrorist attacks. We didn’t tell the kids about what had happened until a few weeks later when Missa B saw a soccer team on TV wearing “Pray for Paris” shirts. It just seemed too fresh to tell them right away.
Hubs and I have had so many conversations about what would have happened if we had been in Paris two weeks later. Our general consensus is that our reflections on the trip would be completely different. We would have ended on such a different note that it may have tainted the way we saw the trip. Instead of coming home with all of us saying that we were glad to be home, but we could have stayed longer, we probably would have been desperate to get home. And sad. Even sadder than we already are knowing what happened to the city we enjoyed so much, to the people who were so kind to us, and who made us feel at home in Paris.
And now it’s happened again.
I hate the fact that I don’t find time to write until something so horrible, something so soul-shaking happens. Until Hubs and I both grab our phones AGAIN to figure out how close we were to the bombings. Until the kids are asking if we had been to the airport, and we tell them yes — it’s where we picked up our rental car, and they try to remember what it looks like. And we pray that they keep those pictures in their heads, that they aren’t replaced with the ones of blown out windows and floors filled with ceiling tiles that we, as adults, keep seeing all over the media.
We loved Brussels. We loved the fact that every other store was a chocolate store. That the Mannequin Pis was 3 blocks from our apartment.
We loved that we came to Brussels during the month the Palace was open to the public. And for free! We looked at the pictures of the Royal Family and talked about what it would be like to be a child living in the Palace. We marveled over the fact that one of the ceilings is made out of beetles. Doesn’t seem very Royal-like.
We walked from our apartment to the Grand Place and back so many times that we lost count. We researched the different buildings so we could figure out what we were seeing. We took the Metro out to the Atomium (which we never learned to pronounce), and we spent hours at Mini-Europe delighted to see miniature versions of places we visited and excited to glimpse those we knew we would be seeing in the coming months.
Our biggest fear as we took the Metro? Figuring out how to get home when the machine refused to take our credit card, the ticket booth was closed, and we didn’t have enough change to get through the gate. And, as usual, the kindness of strangers came through for us as a group pooled together their change to make sure we got home safely. Because safely at that time didn’t include walking down Metro tracks in a tunnel filled with smoke and bodies.
Would we go back to Brussels? Monday night, I pretty much said no. Tuesday morning, I had to say yes. We would go back to support the city, the country, and the people. To not let others rule our travels because they want us to live in fear.
We would go back for chocolate, fries, a peeing statue, and the chance to say, “We won’t let you win.”