Impressions of an emotional and volatile week during a business trip in Europe #NeverForget
I am so happy to have just returned this past Thursday afternoon from a weeklong business shopping and trend research trip through Europe which included London, Paris, and Dusseldorf.
I usually do these long work trips 2 to 4 times a year and typically the things I miss the most about being gone for a whole week are being away from my husband, my 3 cats, and the creature comforts of my home.
I’m always thrilled to return back to family and friends, enjoy my bathtub, my bed, my routine life, and my favorite foods; but upon returning from this trip I was even more thankful to be home.
During this particular week overseas, the tragic bombings of Brussels, Belgium took place on Tuesday, March 22.
I happened to be boarding an early morning flight from London to Dusseldorf and had just seen a TV screen in the airport playing the horrific news of what had just happened that morning in Belgium. My flight took off on time with me still wondering exactly what the specifics of the event were. As I landed and started to tune in to the media—the full story was just coming to light and my phone was starting to go crazy with messages from family and friends trying to find out if I was OK.
What to do next
The news struck very close to me, as I had seriously entertained taking the Eurostar train from London to either Brussels or Antwerp for a change since I was having such trouble booking a train ticket into Paris.
They were preparing for transit strikes there and the train schedule was changing in accordance to that. I couldn’t get a trip booked on-line. I finally waited until the last minute a few days before my trip to see if the strike was still in effect and somehow, I was allowed to book my day trip to Paris on March 21st so there would be no Brussels or Antwerp in my itinerary.
I am thankful that fate worked out the way it did.
Being in Dusseldorf on March 22nd
Being in Dusseldorf on March 22nd, I knew that I was not close enough to where the bombings had happened to be overly concerned for my safety, but I was aware that Dusseldorf is only a 2 hour drive east from Brussels.
And Paris where I had just been the day prior was 3 hours to the west of Brussels. It felt somewhat worrisome knowing that I was skirting closely around Brussels for my travels.
Because of the close proximity of these European cities to each other, my mind started to race in regards to what these terrorists where truly capable of. I was starting to be nervous. If there is anything that has stuck with me from being in New York City during the tragic events of 9/11, a date that is embedded in our minds forever, it is that we can not let our guard down in regards to the violent and calculated acts of terrorism.
Worried about my safety
All of a sudden, I felt very worried for my safety. I didn’t want to be overseas anymore.
I just wanted to be with my family and in my own country. I suddenly felt vulnerable to being alone in these foreign countries.
My itinerary was so crazy traveling from country to country every day—I felt like I was going to be called out through security/customs checks because of the nature of my hectic travel schedule and crossing over so many borders.
Friends were telling me to stay out of high density areas that were likely to be targeted in metropolitan cities which was not really possible for what I needed to do for work.
If I found myself in quieter areas of cities, it also felt dangerous—all of these thoughts just made me want to crawl up in my hotel room and wait until it was time for me to fly back home to the U.S.A.
I have to say that being able to face time loved ones made it so much better to know that I was not really alone. I was able to talk to my family at no extra expense and stay in contact with them for as long as I needed to feel better, calm down, and ground myself.
Perceptions of people in other countries
Being overseas and located so close to a major terrorist attack also opened my eyes to perceptions of people in other countries.
These are only my observations, but I can honestly say it felt very different from country to country….
First, I realized that countries like England and France who have been previously hit are highly aware of the fact that they are constant and major targets for terrorists just as we in the United States know that same feeling.
These countries run very tight security at major mass transit points and high traffic places like department stores. In Paris—at the massive block long Galeries Lafayette, only 1 street entrance was opened for all of the public to enter and everyone was required to open their bags to do a visual check to make sure nothing dangerous was coming into the store.
In London, people were very cognizant and talkative about the Brussels bombings. The people there seemed bonded by these events and mutually concerned for everyone’s safety. They wanted to make sure as a foreign female traveler on my own that I was being safe in my actions.
In contrast to that, a city like Dusseldorf (which is so incredibly close to Brussels), has a people who are genuinely warm and friendly, but almost seemed removed from the situation—as if something like a terrorist bombing was not likely to ever happen in their German city. It just wasn’t part of peoples’ conversations. The security at the airports and at public places seemed very normal.
Next- Reminders of of 9/11 and European Solidarity