Terror attacks 'surreal' for Belgians in Triangle
Posted March 22, 2016
Updated March 23, 2016
Apex, N.C. — Annalies Claus was awakened in her Apex home early Tuesday by a text from her cousin in Belgium, telling her that a bomb had exploded at the Brussels airport.
“Since 4 a.m., I’ve been on the phone with people, texting people. I’ve been following Facebook just to make sure the people I know are OK,” said Claus, who moved to the Triangle from her native Belgium five years ago.
“My dad texted me … and everyone we know is OK, so that’s something,” she said. “But lots of people are not OK.”
At least 31 people were killed and dozens more were wounded when bombs went off in the airport and on a subway train in the Belgian capital, authorities said. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Claus said she’s been dealing with a mix of shock, anger and sadness since learning of the terrorist attacks.
“It’s surreal. This is Belgium, for Christ’s sake,” she said. “It’s a small country. If it weren’t for beer and chocolates, most Americans probably never would’ve heard of it. Now, it’s like chocolate, beer and terrorists.”
Stephane Honhon, the owner of Belgian Café in Apex, moved from Brussels three years ago, and his two children attend college there.
“Most of the customers today were asking about my family,” he said.
Honhon was able to contact his daughter through Facebook to learn that she and her brother are fine.
“Your first reaction is to think about your family and then, of course, all the people and your friends and the people you don’t know, but you feel close to them,” he said.
Claus has a cousin who works in a hospital emergency room in Brussels and has been treating victims of the attacks all day.
“They don’t care who they want to hurt. They want to hurt as many people as possible,” she said.
Brussels residents have taken to writing messages of peace in chalk in a main square in the city, she said, which has quelled some of her anger.
“It’s beautiful. It gives a little bit of hope,” she said.