Last week brought back some great memories of my life from many years ago. Unfortunately, the reason for the rush of memories wasn’t so great—the attacks in Brussels, Belgium. I spent five years of my childhood living with my family in Brussels, and as I read the news online about what had happened there, I was hit with so many emotions, including sadness about what is occurring far too often all over the world.

Of course, I kept checking my Facebook page for posts from the school I had attended while living in Belgium to make sure my childhood friends were safe. I looked for posts from friends who still have parents residing in Brussels to make sure they were all safe as well. My immediate family all reached out to each other on the day of the bombings to find out if our mom had heard from her friends living there. Had my sister heard anything? Any news from my brother?

Fortunately, as the day went on, we were assured they were all safe, and my siblings and I kept checking in with each other to see if we knew anyone else that may have been affected. With each phone call, text, Facebook post, etc., I was reminded how much I love that country and kept thinking about what it was like living there so many years ago. I can honestly say that the five years I spent living in Brussels were some of the best years of my life. I loved my school, my friends, and all the amazing experiences I had living as an American in a foreign country.

My heart truly aches for all of the Americans who lost their lives in the attacks last week. I can’t imagine that a simple trip to the airport—a place that is supposed to be very secure—could result in such tragedy. When I lived in Brussels, it was such a safe place to live and work. I often took the bus with my friends to the downtown area to go shopping and have lunch. Our parents never worried about our safety, and we certainly didn’t have any thoughts of terrorism! However, near the end of my years in Belgium, terrorism was just starting to be mentioned. It was during that time of the Iran hostage situation, the killing of an american soldier, and bombs were starting to go off in other major European cities like London and Rome. It was just the beginning of terror attacks, and things have been escalating since that time.

I do sometimes struggle when I see the American media coverage of events that are occurring in the world. When I lived in Brussels, that wasn’t the type of coverage we were exposed to. In fact, we didn’t have any TV shows in English (except maybe one show per week), and we certainly never saw any news. I am amazed today when I watch coverage of the terrorism that occurred years ago and more recently. When I was a child living in Brussels, I didn’t realize that was how Americans were seeing what was going on in the other parts of the world.

I pray that the people of Brussels—the natives and the many Americans living and working there—can begin to feel safe once again in their own city. The experience I had as a child living in Europe for an extended period of time is something I wish everyone could experience for themselves. My school trips included traveling to sporting events in cities such as Vienna, Paris, London, and so many more beautiful places. We even had school ski trips to the many different areas of Switzerland! The education I received at my school in Brussels was amazing, and the endless trips with my parents to different parts of Europe are something I will never forget. The thought of other kids and adults not being able to experience what I did because of safety concerns is very sad and concerning to me.

I also pray that as Americans we can continue on and not be afraid to visit beautiful countries such as Belgium and cities like Brussels. I hope the Brussels Airport once again becomes a safe place, and we aren’t fearful to travel into and out of there like I did countless times during my childhood. I even flew as an unaccompanied minor to the U.S. with my little sister. But, that’s another story for a different blog!

The Belgium I know is fabulous—the people, the architecture, the sights, the food. Oh, yeah, did I mention the food? Please don’t ever cross Brussels off your bucket list of places to visit, because I think you would be missing out on a trip of a lifetime. Let’s hope the people of Belgium receive the help they need to make their communities as safe as they were when I was growing up in that incredible place.

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