I won’t even waste my words on the hateful people that have tried to take on the magical, eclectic little corner of the world that you are, because their mission to destroy everything that embodies beauty, love and light is in vain. Some are so entangled in their own darkness that they try to steal others’ light.
Brussels, you gave me everything I know and am today; my first taste of travel, learning to stomach mayonnaise with french fries, The International School of Brussels (in my opinion, the most wonderful school in the world), my first kiss, an eclectic group of international friends, inspirational and deeply devoted teachers, an appreciation for the ever-clever René Magritte’s surrealist art, how to navigate ridiculously complicated metro stations that were always under construction, the beautiful French language, honing my negotiation skills with the bouncers at Spirito (usually to no avail), an abundance of European cultures and customs, (window) shopping on Avenue Louise, learning to like Quick over McDonalds, wild nights at You Nightclub, the Overijse crew, the bi-annual flower carpet that covers La Grand Place, four long, awkward years of braces, moules et frites, and your notorious cloudy days that were still so bright they hurt my eyes. Your city hosted some of my most memorable nights as well as the ones I can’t remember. My good days were great and my okay days were still pretty damn good. I laughed hard when everything was perfect and I was in love with life and I cried hard when everything seemed to fall apart and I was in pain. Through it all Brussels, you never faltered; you were my friend, my loyal first love and above all else my comforting home for ten incredible years.
Brussels, you and your people are in pain now, and as you stood by me through all of my formative childhood years and young adult life, I am standing by you and choosing to remind you of all you have to offer those fortunate enough to live within your borders. You are stunning, you are rich in culture, you are an unbeatable and unbreakable force, you are my wonder of the world and are a home and safe haven to the hundreds of thousands who love and cherish you deeply. How dare anyone try and tell you otherwise.
Brussels is a place where summer nights are thick with a heat so overbearing I have to drain my chilled wine a little faster than I should, making the gold lights of the buildings lining the square look all the more brilliant in my widening pupils. Its puzzle-piece cobblestone grounds have been softened by the thousands of curious tourist feet that have stomped across it, and the millions of Belgian footsteps that have navigated its surface with the ease of familiarity. I can stop and lie down against the smooth surface of the Grand Place, the chatter of my friends coming from somewhere above my head the only happy sound situating me in the crowds of people there to admire the city’s timeless beauty.
Brussels, you are a city that glows just as brightly in the dark of night as you do in the light of day, and you stand just as tall in the face of adversity and hate as you do in the presence of compassion and love.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the wounded, and with everyone standing in solidarity with this formidable country.
These attackers, and those who are so filled with hate that it threatens to spill over and plague others? Hate is all they know; it’s all they can see, think, breathe, dream, live by. Let’s see their hate and raise them our hope. While they will never know your love or beauty, or appreciate the small but powerful city of Brussels that you are, please know that we – your friends, your families, your allies – will never forget who you truly are.