Friday, April 22, 2016

Getting home

Because I was flying non-revenue, I knew that if I tried to figure out how to get home stand-by, there was a really good chance that I would be staying in Brussels for another month. So Dave asked Boeing travel to help us out (and not get raked over the coals on price... it was less than $2K), which meant that I had to fly out of Frankfurt at 12:00 the next day.

Laura and I did a couple of interviews that afternoon. The first was with AL.com. I knew the author - our kids had gone to the same preschool. Then a friend of mine in town said that someone from WAFF (I think?) wanted to interview us. Then it got crazy. Laura's cell phone was ringing like crazy with all of these national affiliates. We kept saying no. Then one really persistent CBS guy convinced us to do a Skype interview (they wanted to send a reporter to us - it was around 11:30p.m.). Seriously, the people who book interviews are incredibly good at their jobs. We got on the phone determined to say no, and by the end of it we were putting on make up and setting up her computer.

Maxime was nominated to drive me to Frankfurt. I'm pretty sure I only slept about 2 hours. I think he got a few more hours.

We started around 5:30 a.m. I can only remember one other car trip that was that miserable - driving myself to Montgomery to take the Alabama Bar Exam. During that drive, I was so anxious that I couldn't even turn on the radio. Maxime kept turning on the radio, but every station was just talk about the terrorists. He finally yelled "we know!  I promise, we KNOW!" Once we got to Germany we were able to find some 90's rock, which I enjoyed.

He turned to me at one point and said, you're just ready to get out of here, aren't you. I was. But I also really REALLY did not want to go an airport. It was kind of sick to my stomach thinking about it. But my desire to see Dave and my kids was bigger than my fear.

We finally arrived at the airport. I was immediately suspicious.  It looked too small. We parked, and Maxime looked at me and said, ok! We have to be brave! We can do this!

We parked, walked into the airport, started looking for the American Airlines counter. There wasn't one anywhere. I said to him, I think this is the wrong airport somehow. I went to a car rental counter, and said I was trying to fly internationally. She said, sorry, this is the wrong Frankfurt and handed us the address to the correct Frankfurt airport. We had searched for the airport on Laura's phone and the GPS on the car, and somehow ended up at the wrong city. Clearly we weren't the first people to do that, since they had the address pre-printed.

Here's a description I found on the internet of it:

"Beware that there is a second "Frankfurt" airport, the much smaller Frankfurt-Hahn, which is used exclusively by discount airlines.  Calling it Frankfurt-Hahn is a cruel trick, however, as it is laughably located 70 miles west of Frankfurt and is actually closer to Luxembourg than to downtown Frankfurt."

It was about 9:30 - I wanted to be at the airport by 10:00.  We asked how long of a drive it was - an hour and thirty minutes.

We ran as fast as we could back to the car. Then we had trouble getting out of the parking deck. Then we couldn't figure out how to enter the address into the GPS (addresses should be globally-standardized) and I kept messing up the typing. After I'd done it wrong three times, Maxime sort of clenched his fists and inhaled sharply and said, Ok, fourth time will work.  That was the most upset I saw him the entire trip.

As he drove I tried to have Laura call Dave to have him call Boeing travel and alert them that I was running late to the flight.  But Dave's phone was set to silent so we never got through to him. Meanwhile I joked with Maxime that I couldn't believe how much running away from airports we had done in the past 2 days.

Maxime drove in a way I have never ever been driven before. I think it's good that my brain doesn't really know what 150 km/hr is. He was driving in the left lane with his left blinker on, which apparently means "GET OUT OF MY WAY" in German. I kept saying, it's ok. If I miss the flight, I'll just get a hotel and get out tomorrow. He was determined we could make it. I told him I wanted to get home, not die in a fiery crash on the German highway. He didn't slow down. I told him to not bother parking or waiting because I wasn't going back to Brussels regardless of whether I got on the plane.  Amazingly (or terrifyingly) we made it there in about 45 minutes. I yelled thank you as many times as I could and sprinted into the airport.

Once inside, I was totally overwhelmed and confused. It was, by far, the most confusing airport I have ever been in. I ran up and down the entire length of the terminal looking for an American Airlines counter. There just wasn't one. But there were TONS of people and soldiers with kalashnikovs. I finally picked up a phone that said "information" and begged for them to tell me where the American Airlines check in counter was. She said I was on the wrong floor, I needed to go down a level and to the end of the hall.  I did.  I didn't see anything.  I ran to the completely other end.  Nothing. Desperate, I ran back to the other end, and that's when I saw a tiny automated kiosk that said AA.  No people.

I did the automated check in.  By that point I was crying. There was a large group of Muslim travelers standing next to the kiosk. Heaven forgive me, but I was terrified of them. I kept trying to talk to myself rationally. There were moms with their kids. They were a large family group - probably about 30 family members. I kept thinking, stop stereotyping them. They are just a family traveling. They wouldn't blow up their own children. People are just people. It's going to be ok.

Then I started trying to get through immigration. I was sweating profusely and I'm sure looked deranged. I made it through. Then I started running to security. I was sure that security was going to take forever because of what had happened.  As I ran, I slipped on the tile floor and completely wiped out. My backpack flew open and my stuff flew everywhere. Part of me thought, maybe this is a sign from God that I'm just not supposed to get on this plane. What a horrible joke if I survive a terrorists attack and then I get on a plane that blows up over the ocean.

I gathered up all my stuff and went through security. Amazingly it was right by my gate. When I made it to my gate, they said I had to go through an extra security questioning.  I sort of screamed at them, Are you going to hold the plane??  My intensity took them aback, but they assured me that everyone was boarding that flight and they would hold it for people who were already through security.

After my security questioning, I then got tagged for a "random" security pat-down. Finally, I had all of the necessary stamps and approvals on my boarding pass, and was taken to board. A woman beside me, who I think may have been a nun, was also boarding. When they told her she was going to get on the flight, she said "God is good!"

I turned to her and said "All the time!!!"  We high five-d and hugged.

I managed to get enough free wifi at the airport to get a message out that I was boarding the plane. I spent the first couple of hours of the flight crying. Fortunately it wasn't a full flight, and there were three empty seats between me and the closest person. I watched some TV, ate the food, and just tried to stay calm.

I landed in Philadelphia, made some calls, charged my phone, got some food, then jumped on my next flight to Birmingham. I slept the whole flight. Uncle Bud was waiting for me with a colleague, who had made a welcome home sign. I cried. Dave was running a bit late, so Brian drove me back to the Harper's house. Dave met me there, and after a bit, drove me back home. I was so so happy to see my family.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dealing with life

Evelyn is in this really awesome / difficult phase. She is adorable and says cute things. And then she's awful. I'm pretty sure she would re-enter my womb if given the chance. I am the only human worthy of her attention, and she demands plenty of it. I had to wear her today while I finished cooking dinner. Which is sweet, but also annoying and hurts my back and pulls my hair.

And so I start to have an internal dialogue that goes like this:

Oh my goodness this is so annoying. But, I could be dead right now. No croissants and I'd be dead. So I should enjoy this. She'll never love me or want me like this again. I should be savoring it. Mrs. Martinez will never get to hold her daughters again. I should feel so grateful. I am grateful. But maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it should have been me in there instead of her. Because I bet she was a better mother than me. I bet she didn't tell her 2 year olds to shut up at 4:30 in the morning because she was that desperate for sleep. So here I am and I'm failing and her daughters have to grow up without their mother. Just stop it. It's random and it happened the way it did and there's nothing that you can do about it. So just enjoy life. I should enjoy it more. I should do something for the world. I should just be glad that I'm here with my kids. But I'm not just glad. I'm sad and irritated and frustrated and stressed. And people keep saying that God spared me, and that just makes it so much worse. God spared me and not her? Why? I'm no better than her. I'm probably much worse. What do I have to contribute to the world? I can't even cook dinner without yelling at someone. But God did spare me so maybe there is something I'm supposed to do. I'm sure that purpose isn't yelling at a 2 year old.

And on and on and on.

I also quit homeschooling. Lily's in school. By the grace of God, she has a wonderful teacher and is absolutely loving it. I feel horrible and conflicted and depressed about it. Homeschooling gave me purpose. It fulfilled a need I have to learn new things, research, delve into topics, discover new ideas. In other words, it helped me use my skills that I find I can't often use otherwise as a stay at home mom. And now that's gone. And it is for the best, for many reasons. My stress level is too high to handle teaching right now. And HS wasn't providing Lily with the social outlet she needed.  It just wasn't, as much as I hate to admit that.

But it just highlights this overwhelming sense of what the heck am I supposed to be doing with myself and my life???  Right now what I'm doing is going to therapy and telling the therapist over and over about shrapnel wounds and bloody floors and burnt hair and the bravery and kindness of other people, and crying and crying and crying, so that hopefully when someone asks me how I'm doing, I won't just burst into tears. And I'm working on my resume.

I'll have a few good days.  I even went a week without crying once. And then something will trigger something in me, and the airport becomes all I can think about. And I'm back to that nagging feeling and question of why. Why am I alive and others are dead? (Spoiler alert: there's no intellectually satisfying answer to that question, but it doesn't stop me from asking it.)

This is closed to comments. I don't want to really hear anything from anyone. What I want to do is go back and read this a month from now and pat myself on the head and say, it's ok. It does get better.

Easter

I was so so glad to be able to be back home and able to worship on Easter. I basically cried through the whole service. At that point I knew that Mrs. Martinez had died. The pain of knowing that I was with my children on Easter and she was not was really overwhelming.

At the end of the service, they invited everyone to join in singing the Hallelujah chorus, so of course I had to go sing! It was one of the very few times I was able to sing it without crying. I was claiming that truth for my own. Death has been defeated, and He shall reign forever and ever.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Terror, Pt. 4

We joined a crowd of people in the parking deck behind the Sheraton and police station. By that time we had heard of the bombing at the metro. Maxime went to check and make sure we couldn't get to the car - we couldn't.

Some tourists from Britain were talking to each other. They had been in the airport but didn't realize what had happened. For some reason their ignorance about that morning was almost offensive to me. They had heard the boom, and one of the men had told his wife to duck, and she had refused. I told them there was a bomb and lots of people hurt and definitely some people who were dead. They were sincerely shocked.

We kept pacing around nervously.  I know the term "sitting ducks" was used more than once. At one point several police officers came up from the parking deck with guns drawn. A police officer finally told us all to leave. He said to walk down through the parking garage and that there would be taxis waiting for us. I laughed when he said that. I asked Laura, if you were a taxi driver, would you come here?

So we walked. We decided to head to Herve's other brother's office, as it was about 3 miles away. As I had suspected, there were no taxis. At first we were with crowds of people. We used Laura's GPS to figure out how to walk. After about a mile, we were in a place with a few stores open. Maxime needed to go to the pharmacy. We walked in and I asked if I could have some water. Pharmacies there aren't like a CVS - they pretty much only sell medicine. You can't just buy a bottle of water. So someone had to bring me a physical glass that they filled up in the back of the store. I drank it - the first thing I had to drink all day - and started crying. I said we had to keep going. So long as we kept moving, I didn't cry.

At one point we had to cross some train tracks to get where we were going. There was a tunnel built under the tracks to cross them safely. But Laura and I didn't want to go down into the tunnel because it looked like a metro station or a metro stop. We asked Maxime how long it would take us to walk through it. He estimated a minute.  We decided to run through it.

While we were walking, someone's suitcase fell over onto the cobblestone.  I jumped out of my skin. That was the first time I thought that maybe I was somewhat traumatized.

Our actual walk ended up being rather harrowing. We were walking along highways that weren't designed for pedestrians. I just kept following Maxime, while Laura kept calling into question our decisions. "Guys, I think that we are inured to danger or something. This seems really dangerous." And it was, but it also gave me a purpose and allowed me not to think about anything.

We made it to the office, and it was really hard to just try and act normal. Laura went to the bathroom and washed blood off of her. Then I was shocked to realize there was blood on my pants and on my boots. I did my best to wash them off.

At that point I had internet access, so I could communicate directly with Christine. She had been trying to call Dave, but we don't really keep phones close to us at night, so he didn't hear anything. I told her to call my parents because I knew that they would hear the phone.

Herve's dad came and we talked some.  His wife also - they went and got some food for us. Eventually I was able to Skype with Dave. That was the first time I totally broke down.

Herve's dad's wife lent us a car so that Laura could drive us back to her house.

Terror, Pt. 3

The room with the injured people was clearly a break room. It has white tile floors, tables and chairs, and some couches and more comfortable chairs.  I'd estimate there were about 40 injured people in there. Some were lying on the floor, others were sitting in chairs.

The paramedics came and took Kelvin to an ambulance. His mom was having trouble walking so I helped her down the stairs and made sure she got on the same ambulance as him. There was a blonde airline worker who heard me speaking in Spanish to the mom.  She and I had crossed paths several times, but never spoken. She smiled and said, "Oh, that's so great.  I don't speak Spanish!"

There are so many images that just stick in my brain. In the office, there was a mom and dad and two girls. One girl's face was covered in blood. It almost looked like a grotesque Halloween costume. I don't think she was injured - she wasn't crying or making any noise, really. The father was carefully wiping blood from her face.

There was another woman in the office at some point curled up in a tiny ball in the corner, crying. I asked if she was injured. She looked at me, and just shook her head.

The first airline employee I saw - the one with the burnt hair - she kept trying to make sure that all of her co-workers had made it to safety. Her walkie-talkie seemed to be working still, and she was trying to figure out where everyone was.

There was a lot of luggage that had been left just outside of the police building. At one point a woman became hysterical about the luggage. The thin police woman with short hair reassured her that the luggage was safe. I agreed with the hysterical woman - she had no way of knowing the luggage was safe. There could easily have been a bomb inside one of them.

At one point I realized that I had no idea where Maxime was. I stood up and started screaming his name. (Again - you can count on me to scream). I finally saw him in the corner of the break room with an injured girl. Laura was trying to examine her and she was screaming even more loudly than me. Her name was Fanny.

Once my initial shock of being surrounded by so many injured people wore off, I asked Laura what I could do to help.  She told me that if someone was bleeding, and I couldn't see the source of the blood, I needed to cut off their clothes until I could. I found some scissors and gloves. There was an airline employee lying on the ground, with her feet propped up in a chair. She had an injury on her right thigh because I could see blood seeping through her pants.

"I'm going to cut your pants leg, ok? I just want to check this place on your leg."

When I grabbed her pants leg, I almost threw up. Her uniform was thick polyester, and it was heavy the way clothes that haven't been wrung out are heavy. It was heavy with her blood.

She could see my aversion and said "Oh, don't worry!  I'm pretty sure that blood is from my head!" She had a head wound that was bleeding pretty heavily, which I'm sure is why she had her feet propped up. That moment haunts me. Here she was, severely injured and bleeding, and she was trying to make me feel better.

I cut up her pants leg and saw a shrapnel injury on her leg. In my ordinary life, if I had seen an injury like that, I would have thought it was horrific. But compared to other injuries that day, it wasn't bad. It wasn't even bleeding any more. I covered it with a paper towel and tried to find something else useful to do.

After awhile, all of the critically-injured people had been carried away. Someone official-looking said that if anyone was injured and could walk, or if they were not injured, they wanted them to go to another location where they would receive medical care. I figured that included us, so I tried to leave. But then I realized I'd left my backpack. Then I realized I'd left Laura and Maxime. Maxime was not going to leave Fanny, which was the right call, as she was going into shock. So we stayed.

There were people sitting on chairs with leg shrapnel injuries that couldn't walk. Laura was explaining to them that they would need X-rays to make sure that there was nothing inside of the wounds. Of course we now know that the terrorists used nails in the bombs. We waited with the injured until there were enough ambulances and stretchers to take everyone.

I grew up watching ER. I loved that show. Many times they would show the floor of a trauma room after a large trauma. And even though that was fiction, it was exactly what the floor of that break room looked like.  There was blood, paper towels, clothes, and gloves all over the floor. When every last injured person was gone, the three of us sort of looked at each other, wondering how it was that we were the last three there.

We walked out of the police station, and turned away from the terminal and joined a crowd in the parking lot, trying to decide what to do next.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Terror, pt. 2

I don't think I can reliably be very chronological at this point. I mostly have a lot of images and scenes in my brain. I'm hoping that when Laura comes we can try to piece together things more accurately using our combined brain power, plus we're going to Skype with Maxime.

There was a tall thin woman with short hair who worked for the airline security / police. She told us we needed to go upstairs. At the top of the stairs, you could go straight into the break room, where injured people were being taken, or turn and go into another office space. I chose to go to the office space.

I could hear a baby crying in the next room. It was almost physically painful to hear a baby. I kept thinking, Oh my God, what if the baby is injured? What if the baby is burned? I can't bear that. I absolutely cannot bear it.

There was a guy in the office with me who was trying to get a call out and was really agitated, cursing (I think) in German. I noticed that he had a hole in his jacket. I know that sometimes people can be hurt and not realize it because of adrenaline, so I asked him if he was hurt, and asked him to take his jacket off.  He had a rip in his jacket, through the lining, but nothing on his sweater underneath. I told him it must be his lucky jacket.

Maxime was wandering in and out, trying to figure out if he could make a call out. There was a police woman who kept coming in and out. At one point she was frantically looking for something. I finally asked her what it was (stupidly thinking I could help, I guess) and they said police tape.

All the while, people kept coming, or being carried, to the room. I glanced out every now and then, but I did not engage with them.

Finally Laura came and told me that there were some girls who needed help. I very very stupidly asked "Are they hurt?" Because I just didn't want to have to see children hurt. I didn't want that to be a real thing in my mind.

"Yes, but they're scared and alone and you need to come help them."

As soon as I saw them, I thought of my girls. They were maybe 8 and 10, but it's hard to say for sure.

I saw the baby that I had heard crying.  He or she wasn't hurt at all. Her mother was holding her, and fed her. The mother had some burns, but wasn't too badly injured. I said a silent prayer thanking God that the baby wasn't hurt.

At first I didn't realize that the little girls spoke English. They were terrified, shaking. The younger one had burns all over her body. Someone had already wrapped her legs in gauze. Her hair was bloody. She had on a puffy jacket, just like one that one of my girls have, and the plasticky material had melted. Her sister was also burned, but not quite as badly. She had injured one of her hands - I kept trying to look at it, but my brain wouldn't fully process it. I wonder now if she perhaps lost a finger or part of a couple of fingers.

The younger one seemed to be going into shock. I thought if I can calm her down, maybe she won't go into shock. So I said, let's sing! And I started singing Alouette, just because it's the only French song I could come up with. Then one of them said something to the other that made me realize they spoke English. So I started asking them questions.  Their names. One was Kailani and I just can't remember the other one's name. I asked where they were flying to. Atlanta. They started asking things like, How we will get home? How will we get back to school?

My first instinct was to say "You can come home with me and live and I will take care of you." I just had this instinct to protect them. But I realized that it would be even more terrifying for a stranger to say that she was going to adopt you. I had unconsciously assumed that their parents were dead. Instead I thought of something I'd heard Mr. Rogers say. "Look at all of the helpers.  Do you see all of these people (and I pointed out specific people)? They are all going to make sure that you are ok. They are all trying to help.They're going to make sure that you get back to your house."

I got them to sing Row Row Row your Boat with me. When I said the line "life is but a dream" I almost choked and started crying. The girls had cups but had run out of water, so I went and found another bottle of water. It seemed so little to offer - just a cup of water. Then I noticed that the older girl had her last name on a piece of fabric. It clearly came from a U.S. military uniform. Martinez.

By that point we were hearing sirens from ambulances. But no one seemed to be coming to help. I noticed that there was another person who looked like he was a doctor attending to some of the wounded people. He was putting a salve of some sort on people's burns. The girls were wailing about the burns on their arms and faces. I wanted to try to find some of that salve. A guy who was also injured had been speaking with them until he was examined by Laura. He came back over and started talking to them again, so I took that as an opportunity to try and find better medical gear.

I walked down out of the building, and saw a paramedic. I told him that they had to send help up to where we were. He said "I'm sorry. We have to go in the airport first. It's so much worse in there."

I don't know which time it was when I walked away from the girls, whether to find water, or to look for medical help or to talk to the paramedic, but at one point when I came back, they were gone. I asked Laura where they were. She said a paramedic had finally come, and she told him to take the girls first. He scooped them both up and ran.

In their place on the couch was a mother and son. His name was Kelvin. Laura asked me to help them because they spoke Spanish. The boy was going into shock. The mother was bloody, and having trouble hearing. I told her "es normal." She asked me about her eye.  "Quizas hay vidrio, pero no parece terible."
Kelvin and his mom

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Terror

I knew that if I posted about Belgium I would eventually get the place where all that was left to tell was about the airport. And I think it's probably important for me to write out as much as I can.

I feel like I've been telling this story over and over to the point that it makes it less real. Which, according to my therapist, is actually the point. If you allow yourself to dwell on a traumatic event, and feel the emotions of it, you slowly become desensitized to them, and you suffer fewer effects from the trauma. I told him that I was just taking that on faith because I couldn't really imagine feeling less horror than I do. He smiled and said that he has been called a sadist by more than one client, but that evidence does support him.

I was flying stand by out of Brussels, but I wasn't worried about making the flight because it was quite empty. The airport is on the small side, and I felt that if we were there close to two hours ahead of time, I'd be fine. Maxime was scheduled to fly to Spain around 11:00, so he came as well. I felt badly that he had to get up so early and stay at the airport for so long.

We got up so early that I couldn't really stomach drinking coffee. I had nothing to eat or drink, but I figured I'd have plenty of time in the airport. Maxime asked to stop and get some croissants on the way, since he'd have time to kill in the airport.

The drive is around 30-40 minutes. When we pulled into the airport, Laura debated parking and going in with us. But I knew she'd have to pay for parking then, and I was worried because it was definitely after 7:40, probably closer to 7:50, and I didn't want to be too rushed to get on the plane. So I convinced her to go to the kiss and fly.

I knew exactly where it was in relation to the departure terminal because I had wandered around there the day I arrived. We found a parking space and got out. I had put my backpack on my shoulder and was turning to get my suitcase out of the trunk.

The first explosion didn't sound that loud. It truly sounded exactly like testing at the arsenal, or a single clap of thunder. I wasn't scared at all when I heard it because I unconsciously attributed it to arsenal testing. But then I looked back at the terminal and saw smoke and glass pouring out of it.

I screamed that it was a bomb and that we should get in the car and get out of there. Maxime tried to jump back in the car, but he was on the wrong side at that point - the side with the carseats in it. He was saying something that I wasn't consciously processing. I was just screaming, and Laura was struggling to start the car, get it into gear. Then I heard the second bomb. I screamed that we should just run.

Looking back, I realize that Maxime was saying that he didn't think we'd be able to drive anywhere, that getting in the car wasn't a good idea. My unconscious mind was agreeing with him, and once I reached the conclusion that he was right, I screamed that we had to run.

Maxime later said that he felt like my reactions were helpful. While he was absolutely right, our brains couldn't process a logical argument. What we needed was a screamer - and that was me.

As we ran, I could feel Maxime's hand on my back pushing me forward. There was an open door to our left, and a man was standing holding it open, waiving for us to come inside. As I ran, I thought, oh good, there's a bomb shelter! It was a police station. There were three or four officers inside. They were yelling, and I was yelling. I kept saying "there was a bomb." They looked so shocked, and kept asking what I was talking about.  Then one guy started to get sort of suspicious of us, and said "who are you?!" I told tried to explain that we were just trying to fly home, but that there was a bomb. I think I asked, "Is there a safe place to hide here?" They all put on their bullet-proof jackets and left.

That officer's look of doubt put doubt into my mind. I ran to the end of the room, and hid under a desk. Laura got under with me, but Maxime did not. He later said he couldn't see the point. I asked if we could hold hands and pray. They agreed and I prayed the Lord's Prayer. Laura got a call out to Herve, that there was a bomb at the airport, that we were safe, that we were hiding in the police station. That was miraculous, as cell phones quit working soon thereafter. Herve later told me he could hear me in the background - no doubt I was screaming.

I was still terrified. I think I said that I was afraid that it wasn't safe, but I'm not sure if I vocalized it. I kept thinking that if I were a terrorist, I would target the police. If it was so easy for us to get in there, it would have been easy for a terrorist to get in there. I tried to assess what weapons I had available to me. The only thing I saw was a metal trashcan. I decided that if someone came in with a gun, I would charge them with that garbage can, aiming for their head. Then I thought, hey this is a police station, there are guns! I started looking around for a gun safe, but then I thought: This is Europe.  There are no guns.

At some point we said that we would stay together. But I didn't feel like I could stay there. It was too close to the airport. It just didn't feel safe. I kept saying that I was unsure whether this was a good idea to stay there. Maxime could tell that I was so afraid, there was a chance I was going to bolt. He found a piece of paper and wrote this:

ZAVENTEM CENTRUM KERK - EGLISE

He said I could show this paper to anyone and ask for directions. It would take me to the center of the closest neighborhood, to the closest church. If we got separated, I could go there and be safe. They would come and find me. What we needed was a boy scout - and that was Maxime.

Once I had that piece of paper, I started to calm down. I realized that I couldn't swallow. I had no spit in my mouth at all. It was at that time, that people started coming. The first person I remember seeing was an airline employee. She was tall and had brown hair. Her hair looked so weird on one side. I kept looking at her hair. It looked like a barbie's hair that has gotten too tangled. I felt like maybe there was something in it. I just couldn't understand it. Once I caught a whiff of the burning smell, I realized her hair looked so weird because it was burnt.

More and more people kept coming. Someone was leading them upstairs. I glanced at the stairs, and there was blood on the floor. I felt nauseous. Laura walked toward the door and started looking at the people. I yelled for her to come back. She turned to me and said, Laura, look. There are people who are hurt. I have to help them. What we needed was a doctor - and that was Laura.

I would say that probably five minutes had elapsed since the bombing at that point. That's all I can write about tonight.