Brussels Commemorates 2016 Attacks

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On 22nd March 2016, the Belgian capital was the scene of two terrorist attacks, now a year on the citizens of Brussels commemorate that day with silence and noise.

At 7.58 am that morning, a bomb exploded in Brussels Airport. While the airport was still being evacuated, at 9.11am another bomb went off in Maelbeek metro station close to the European Parliament. In total, 32 people died, and over 320 were injured by the two attacks. By that evening the residents of Brussels had gathered at the Old Stock Exchange in the centre of town to mourn, and drawn messages of hope and resistance on the pavement of the square.

A year later, at 7.58am the airport stopped to remember. Take offs and landings were delayed, baggage carrousels froze, and all other activity ceased. Outside a large crowd, which included the King and Queen of Belgium, the Prime Minister Charles Michel and relatives of the victims held a minute of silence. The names of the deceased were read out to the accompaniment of a single cello, and wreaths were laid down. After this ceremony, a sculpture called Flight in Mind that was damaged in the attacks and has since been relocated to the memorial garden for the victims at the entrance to the airport was unveiled.

At Maelbeek Metro Station, the Brussels transit authority, or STIB, called for commuters to make noise and applaud at 9.11am as an affirmation of life,  a way of remembering the victims, and standing together against terrorism.

In the heart of the European Quarter, a statue called Wounded But Still Standing in the Face of the Unthinkable by Belgian sculptor Jean-Henri Compère was unveiled. It is 20 metres long and 2 metres high, and consists of two pieces of stainless steel bent, crushed and full of holes at the bottom. The steel smooths out and bends upwards to the sky in a gesture of hope.

At midday, around 500 people again gathered at the Old Stock Exchange to commemorate, a choir sang songs, and people laid down flowers, lit candles and once again wrote messages of hope and remembrance in chalk on the ground.

Heartbreakingly, on the same day there was another attack in Westminster, in which four people died.

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Spanish, Portuguese and European Studies student, on her year abroad in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

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