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March 22nd. A date forever etched into the collective memory of our city, our country and our university. At two separate, but equally revolting attacks on subway station Maalbeek and Brussels National Airport 32 civilians were killed by three suicide bombers. The offenders and their followers wanted to strike us in the heart of our tolerant society, of our humanistic values and of our freedom-loving city. Today, the VUB community joined in remembering last year’s victims with a moment of silence and a few speeches.
A tense atmosphere during the crowded remembrance on this sunny day. Everyone knows why we’re here: to remember the victims of last year’s attacks in Brussels. And everyone stills remembers as if it were only yesterday. The pain and suffering is still fresh.
Alumnus Laurens Coessens was one of those victims, his captivating story was read by a member of the Student Council: how his ‘simple’ student life abruptly came to violent end. Laurens was badly hurt during an explosion at the airport, and his story still continues. In October he’ll have his last out of six foot operations.
Rector Caroline Pauwels read out iMinds researcher Shenja’s words, who was also a witness of last year’s attacks. Luckily she wasn’t hurt. Shenja was at the airport with her four-month-old son when she heard a deafening bang. A bang, screaming and panic, but also solidarity. That’s what she will remember most.
Caroline Pauwels concluded by talking about the power of love, and about how we can always see something positive in something bad. She used some poetic quotes from the book ‘A jihad of love’ by David Van Reybrouck as example. Afterwards the remembrance was concluded by a moment of silence.