On Tuesday morning I sat drinking coffee and reading through Twitter before going to work, like I usually do. I saw the words “Brussels” “explosion” and “airport.” I kept scrolling, but kept seeing those words. And then “13 dead.” And then I realized that I was sitting a few short metro stops from a terror attack.
A feeling of shock silently crept over me, almost giving me tunnel vision. I grabbed my purse and walked outside to go to work, like I usually do.
When I got back on Wi-Fi at work 30 minutes later, I saw that that there had been another explosion about a 10-minute walk from my apartment at the Maelbeek metro station. So close to where most of my friends are interning this semester.
Right now I feel an overwhelming pressure to be profound, as if my proximity to these tragedies holds me to a higher standard of commentary.
But at 20 years old, how can I possibly comprehend this well enough to comment on it coherently?
I refreshed Twitter every four seconds throughout the morning, watching both the heroic and the ugly side of social media. Hashtags like #ikwilhelpen and #PrayforBruxelles brought me a swell of pride in humanity, but they were unfortunately mixed in with ones like #StopIslam.
I tweeted over 25 times today. Some tweets took a lot of thought, and some were just a simple retweet. But I think Twitter is built to show a stream of consciousness. Thank goodness, because that’s all I think I have right now. A million disjointed thoughts.
I’ve talked to a dozen different journalists from the US, taking a seat on the other side of the recorder than I usually do. Being the interviewee was strange because I have a lot to say but find it hard to speak given how much my hands are shaking and heart is breaking.
When similar terror attacks occurred in Paris in November, I followed them from the comfort of my home in Columbia. I was appalled, but I could fall asleep feeling safe.
Tonight I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fall asleep.