Saturday, January 31, 2009

In the wake of a tragedy

What was supposed to be a routine grocery run this morning, turned out as an awkward, but touching trip down sympathy-lane.

The Belgian people among you need no introduction to the drama that occurred on Friday last week. Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, read here.

This thing happened not far from where I live. In fact, I pass that nursery every Saturday when my son and I have our walk to the baker and the bank. Strangely enough, I have been able to remain calm and sober about this situation this last week, even considering the fact that I have a two year old son and three months old daughter myself. But today, that changed.

When we approached the nursery this morning, it was the first time I saw the scene since the incident. The entry was taped off, with an official memorial wreath barring the entrance to the building. Next to the wreath, I could see from afar some flowers and children's handiwork adorning the pavement. I remember thinking that it seemed very little, considering the impact this drama had caused, but assumed that most of what was left behind by sympathetic people had already been 'cleaned up'.

To my surprise, when I continued around the corner, the entire side of the building was stacked with toys, teddy bears, flowers, cards, candles, and who knows what more! It was a big mass of hopeful colors, a true sight to behold! I regret not carrying a camera at the time; you're just going to have to imagine it.

Continuing our walk, I started to notice how deserted and somber the streets around the nursery seemed, in contrast to the Big Prismatic Wall. The air was heavy with sorrow and fear, and I couldn't help but feel that the white balloons and ribbons attached to the front doors were not so much out of sympathy for the unfortunate families, than they were to ward off some evil spirit at their doorsteps.

As we came closer to the bakery and bank, we also approached the town's church. I guess it came as no surprise when I saw a hearse parked out in front of it. What did strike me as unusual when we walked around to reach the bank, though, was how the entire parking lot around the church was blocked from traffic, and several police officers were patrolling the church -- most likely to make sure no press would intrude on the privacies of the burial ceremony. I assumed either one of the two deceased children or the deceased nurse was to be buried today.

Having finished our errands at the bank, we set to return around the other side of the church to head home, and at that moment the bells started their funeral toll. The solemn ringing cut right through me, as my son and I watched from underneath up to the tower.

That was the first time since the tragedy that I've realized how extremely lucky I am with the family I still have.

1 comment:

AVA said...

You should've watched the news, the wall with all the gifts was all over it all week, and apparently you missed that the mayor has put that police force out to, indeed, ward off the press. The families of the victims had requested that because they already were suffering from journalists invading their privacy.