Remembering the Brussels victims 

Hundreds gather at the Place de la Bourse to pay homage to the 31 people who died in the twin terror attacks.

March 26, 2016 04:53 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 04:55 am IST

 Hundreds of people have been gathering every day to place flowers, candles and messages in memory of the Brussels victims at the Place de la Bourse, a large square that houses the Brussels stock exchange built in the late 19th century. PHOTO: PARVATHI MENON

 Hundreds of people have been gathering every day to place flowers, candles and messages in memory of the Brussels victims at the Place de la Bourse, a large square that houses the Brussels stock exchange built in the late 19th century. PHOTO: PARVATHI MENON

The Place de la Bourse, a large square that houses the Brussels stock exchange built in the late 19th century, is the place where hundreds of people have been gathering every day to place flowers, candles and messages in memory of the 31 people who died and the dozens injured in the two terror attacks that shook the city on the morning of March 22.

On a railing near the thick carpet of flowers is a poster with a photograph of a young woman with the simple question “Have you seen My Atlegrim?” The full details of those dead and missing are still not known, which this poignant appeal reflects.

Narrow escape

Yousra Elbonazzati, 22, a young and articulate Belgian woman of Moroccan descent, had a lucky escape from death. She had gone through security to board a flight to Dubai by Qatar airlines in the Zavantem airport when the bomb carried by the suicide terrorist Ibrahim el-Bakraoui blew up. “The moment I heard it, I knew it was not an accident but a bomb,” she says.

Yousra has come to the Square to place flowers and make a point. “I am Belgian and love my country, and I am also a Muslim. Those who committed the terror attacks are not. Every religion must respect diversity, and I am here to speak up for humanity and not for any particular group.”

Diversity that marks its nationalism

Indeed, the messages written on pieces of paper and scrawled on walls support express the resolve of the residents of Brussels to uphold and celebrate the diversity that marks Belgian nationalism.

The crowd swells as the performers of the Brussels Philharmonic file silently onto the steps of the Bourse. The rousing strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy played by the orchestra and sung by the choir hold the gathering entranced.

‘Singing here a very emotional experience’

“Singing here was a very emotional experience for me,” one of the singers tells The Hindu . “What is remarkable is how music and words composed so long ago speak to us even today.”

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