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    The day VUB stood still

    Exactly five years ago today, on 22 March 2016, the day began with short, alarming news reports on the radio and internet. They mentioned talk of explosions in the entrance hall of Brussels Airport. A terrorist attack? An accident? An hour later, another explosion, this time in the Maelbeek metro station, removed all lingering doubt. The attacks would eventually cost the lives of 32 people. Many others were injured, some seriously. Today, the VUB remembers that black day from five years ago and commemorates the victims of a fanaticism that goes against its values: freedom of thought, recognition of diversity and willingness to listen to others.

    Darkness will never overcome light. This statement recurred many times in the numerous speeches made at our university in the aftermath of the attacks. Rightly so, because that was exactly what those attacks were after: to extinguish the flame of reason, to put out the light over our democracy that is powered by the fire of discussions instead of the fire from gun barrels.

    The attacks were intended to strike fear. Every attack seeks to instil fear. But fear breeds resilience. Sooner or later, we straighten our backs, we resist. And that always happens in unity, in solidarity.

    Today, we feel connected with those who have suffered most from the attacks, those who have lost their husband or wife, daughter or son, father or mother, friend or acquaintance. We think of the rescue workers who cared for the injured in the chaos of those first minutes. We remember the feeling that came over all of us at that time: the feeling of disbelief, of numbness, of anxiety. We found security with our partners, friends, colleagues and families.

    It is a coincidence, but at the same time very special that the commemoration of that black day is accompanied by the first signs of a fledgling spring, a spring in the sign of a burgeoning freedom. It signals that we are also overcoming another assault: the current one on our health, caused by corona. This time, salvation comes in the form of a few millilitres of pure science in the form of a vaccine – how could it be otherwise? Here too, the pure light of reason overcomes a scourge of humanity. 

    Loss & Love

    Kristin Verellen lost her life partner in the attacks. She was welcomed into the warm embrace of many others. She realised that we are more connected than we think. Since then, she has been propagating this awareness with the 'Loss & Love' circles. On the occasion of the commemoration of the attacks of five years ago, an online 'Loss & Love' circle will be held today, Monday 22 March 2021 from 5.00 pm to 6.30 pm. Everyone can participate after registering. As a compassionate university, the VUB supports this initiative. We invite everyone to attend.