ONLINE EXCLUSIVE ARTICLE BY DRAKE RHONE
Sophomore Taylor Robertson arrived in Brussels last Tuesday, the day of a terrorist attack that would kill 34 and injure hundreds. Robertson and his group had noticed a lot of police and heard sirens, but didn’t think anything of it.
“We didn’t know about the attacks until we went to a café for some coffee and looked at our phones and saw a lot of texts from friends and family along with alerts from BBC,” Robertson said.
The bombings affected more than just the city of Brussels, but Drake students who were near the city or have visited in the past.
Robertson said that after becoming aware of the attacks, the group notified their family of their safety and headed to the U.S. Embassy. After meeting with an official, and assured that the rest of the city was safe, they stopped at “a place with food, beer and free Wi-Fi,” before continuing to Antwerp.
Grace Peterson, another sophomore studying abroad, was in Amsterdam when she heard about the attacks. Peterson said that it was nerve-racking having been there only days before, calling it “a little too close for comfort.”
Jeff Scott Jones, a junior, has studied abroad in Belgium previously and was in Brussels during last year’s Paris attacks.
“These attacks get to me, especially because that metro that was attacked was the exact line that I took whenever I went downtown,” Jones said. He said that he frequently passed through the Maalbeek station, one of the sites of the attacks, to go shopping or eat at McDonalds.
“If I were still in the city and I didn’t have class today, I probably would have been craving McDonalds, and I could have been on that train.”
Jones said he stays in contact with his Belgian friends over social media, but due to the seven hour time difference, it was late afternoon before he was able to see their posts and make sure that they were safe. One of Jones’ friends was working in an office right outside of the Maalbeek Metro Station, one of the attacked sites.
“On her Snapchat was a video of police cars and smoke outside of the station,” Jones said. “It was just like the photos that CNN and BBC showed, but something about it being on my friend’s story made it more scary than seeing pictures on a website.”
Several of Jones’ friends were caught in a lockdown, which Jones says sounds similar to what he experienced firsthand after the Paris attacks.
“School was canceled for 2 days, and the metro was out of service for about 2 weeks,” Jones said. “We were asked to stay indoors and not mention police activity outside our windows on any social media.”
Lockdowns and terrorism haven’t diminished the traveling spirit of these Drake students. Jones, Robertson and Peterson all said that they would continue to visit more cities in Europe.
“I remember after the Paris attacks my program asked me if I wanted to cancel my study aboard trip and I said no,” Robertson said. “I still feel the same today, because I have the belief that if quit, they win.”