Although I prefer to highlight the best things that have happened in the past year, I didn’t want to ignore some of the other important things, including that time Brussels went into total lockdown following the terror attacks in Paris.
Our first two overseas posts happened to be in places where the US Embassy had been attacked relatively recently. When working at (and often living near) such a high-profile target, we became used to noting our surroundings and just being more aware. In fact, before going to Serbia, we had been told that there was a lot of anti-American sentiments and we should be careful of being overtly “American.” Trying to fit in is always a good idea, in my opinion; I am happy to say that we never felt unwelcome because of our nationality.
When we moved to Brussels, we certainly weren’t expecting our safety and security to become more of an issue. Life here also feels very “normal” (English is often spoken/understood, one can find pretty much anything in the stores, the Internet is fast and reliable, etc.), so when the terrorists struck Paris in November, I was pretty shaken: these things can really happen anywhere.
Then Brussels got pulled into the news and the city shut down as police and authorities searched for missing terrorists. It was scary but, more importantly, it was a reality check… While you shouldn’t stop living your life, you should be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for unusual activity.
During the lockdown, #BrusselsLockdown turned into a parade of cat memes on Twitter, highlighting often quirky Belgian humor (Mannekin Pis, anyone?). It was good to laugh about some silly cat pictures as we all holed up at home amid the heightened tension and security.