Unfortunately travel today means the first thing you have to put in your mind is to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Yet we cannot let the threat and actual events of terrorism disrupt us from our everyday lives. The explosions in Brussels this morning, 22 March 2016, remind us that we must always be alert. Yet still be able to focus on enjoying a holiday. It is not easy but at the same time we cannot let this event keep us from exploring the world.
I was in Brussels this morning buying a coffee from the Starbucks in the Grand Place. The manager was the one to advise us that there had been an explosion at the airport, the store would close and only those who had already ordered would be served. In support of the airport explosions many stores in Brussels were closed by 10am.
The Grand Place, usually full of tourists by mid-morning was quiet. Only those who had arrived in the city early or stayed in central hotels were walking around and taking photos. Those of us sitting outside the now closed Starbucks were on social media to family, friends or trawling through the media coverage as it posted live. It was revealed that there was a third explosion at the Maelbrek Metro station in the heart of the European Union area of Brussels. Subsequently, this resulted in the entire public transport system (bus, metro and tram) being shut down.
As I sat in the Grand Place, the sounds of sirens of emergency services vehicles could be heard across the city as they raced towards the two explosion sites. A helicopter buzzed above the city on surveillance. Brussels had had a visible military and police presence across the city before today so seeing them on the street today was no surprise.
The city had lost its usual buzz as everyone was engrossed in letting family and friends know they were okay. People were also leaving the city and soon it resembled a ghost town. As you walked the streets for the rest of the day there was a heavy feel in the air. It was a sombre atmosphere as the city was locked down.