Brussels – Hundreds of workers from the Brussels airport hit by a terror attack carried flowers and candles on Wednesday for a silent march and vigil near the still shuttered facility.
Some wore their work access cards, armbands and fluorescent safety vests for the memorial just next to Zaventem Airport, where at least 15 people were killed in Tuesday’s suicide bombings.
“It could have happened to me,” said Gregory Lupant, a security guard, who added he was worried about colleagues “who had not been heard from, and others who had lost a leg or finger.”
The airport employs some 20,000 people, many of whom live nearby.
Some of the staff brought their families for the emotional gathering, where workers hugged each other and recounted where they were when the explosions happened.
“I was lucky, but I feel bad about the others,” said Leila, who works at an airport boutique, but was off on Tuesday.
Her husband, who also works at Zaventem, and four-year-old daughter joined her for the memorial.
“I explained to my daughter that mommy and daddy’s work was broken, that people had broken it.”
On a roundabout near the smashed buildings, a sign reading “I still love my airport job” bore dozens of signatures and the airport’s logo.
– ‘My daily problems’ –
Earlier in the day Belgians observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the country’s worst-ever terror attacks, which also targeted a metro train, killing 31 people in all.
The mood was sombre at the headquarters of the European Union where Belgium’s King Philippe and his wife joined officials led by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
On the Place de la Bourse, crammed with people and decked out with flags and flowers left by mourners, the defiant crowd chanted: “Long live Belgium”, followed by “Brussels above all”.
A banner spread across the square read; “Ik Ben Brussel, je suis Bruxelles” (I am Brussels) written in two of Belgium’s official languages: Dutch and French.
“We are showing our compassion,” said Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur. “We need to reach out today to all those who were hurt.”
Certain aspects of normal life began to creep back as the city mourned.
At Schuman metro station at the foot of the European Union’s headquarters — and just one stop on from Maalbeek station where the attack took place — travellers seemed more confused by changes to the usual schedule than fearful.
Limited metro service resumed on Wednesday, with many stations still closed.
One passenger stepped onto a train and then off again, asking: “Where’s that one headed?”
“I haven’t yet fully realised what’s happening, I’m still stuck in my daily problems, but perhaps it’s better that way,” said Pierre Pardon, a social worker.