Starbucks truly is a bad habit

This blog is primarily my writing therapy for going through infertility, but it has also been my therapy for other things in my life and so I ummmed and ahhhhed about writing this post.  But here we go…

I made a decision to buy a Starbucks coffee.  I decided when I arrived at Brussels Airport early this morning to get myself a pick me up coffee to help me stay awake and deal with the jet lag.  I left the arrivals lounge and headed upstairs to the departures.  I decided as I was in a different country to try a different coffee.  I ordered a skinny vanilla bean macchiato.  I juggled the coffee with my two roller suitcases and managed to bag myself the last seat left in the corner.  I got comfy and plugged in my phone to charge – I had killed it on the flight over playing games.  I had just three sips of my coffee when there was a loud boom to the right of me, glass and debris flew everywhere, my coffee ended up on the floor.  I ended up diving down on the floor because my battlefield instinct told me get low and cover my head. People got up and ran – I shouted at them to get down.  About 40 seconds later there was an even bigger explosion.  I could feel the heat from the fireball that ran across the ceiling above me.  I could feel the shock wave pass over me.  There was debris and bits of ceiling fluttering down around me, the old lady behind me was cowering behind her suitcase. I asked if she was OK. She was petrified, but she had someone with her. It’s challenging to consul someone when there is a language barrier.

I grabbed my lowly charged phone and my coat, trying to keep low.  I dialed Chris – it was taking a long time for him to answer I thought I was about to get his answerphone….I am so glad I didn’t get his answerphone…but Chris answered, a little sleepy and dazed- it was 3 AM in the US.  I told him “I don’t want to panic you- I’m OK, but there has been an explosion at the airport, I am OK.”  I am not really sure exactly what happened after this.  I don’t know what I said to Chris. I don’t know how long I was on the phone for, but I remember I kept saying how much I loved him.  I can only imagine how terrified Chris was to receive a phone call like this in the middle of the night.  You could almost think it was a nightmare.  But it was real.

I remember lying low watching everyone around me run away.  I wasn’t running, I was looking out for suspicious people, listening out for any gunshots.  I was looking for injured people I could help.  I guess all that pre-deployment training kicked in.  I don’t think there is any right or wrong in this kind of situation, it’s what your gut instinct tells you to do.

There was a man who was walking calmly across the debris, through the thick smoke, I hid behind my suitcase.  At the time he was suspicious to me, he was the only person not running.  But in hindsight he was probably walking shell shocked.  I was probably one of the last to leave the Starbucks – but I wanted to be sure which direction to get out without endangering myself any more.  The first bomb was to my right, the second huge one was to my left.  I was remarkably calm.  I evaluated the situation, my first thought was to take just my passport…then I decided to take everything (except the coffee which I took a second look at…lying on the floor split everywhere, I don’t know how I  managed to not get any on me.)  I checked my surroundings again and decided to go right where the smaller explosion was.  I hurried outside to the parking garage over the road. Picking up my suitcase as I ran.  I’ve never left the confounds of Brussels airport because I’ve always transited onward by train to a different destination.  I didn’t know where I was.  I thought if I stay close I could help, but there was just chaos.  It took a very long time for help to arrive – the first responders were the airport fire brigade.  There were already some military at the airport patrolling because of already heightened security.  They were walking around pretty dazed themselves.  The ambulances arrived, the police arrived, they started to carry out the wounded – and dead – on stretchers.  I think they all must have been under the rubble because I couldn’t immediately see anyone before I left.  Then a soldier came running out shouting something I couldn’t understand, but I got the picture.  There must have been another device, or an attacker laying in wait.

So we ran.  We ran down a road which filters onto a main highway.  But there was no designated rendez vous point…there was just the feeling of “everybody get the hell out of there”.  So I did.  I barely had any juice on my phone, I followed a trickle of people who looked like they knew where they were going.  People were gathering at the petrol (gas) station, there was a little rest stop with toilets and vending machines.  I went to the toilet and relieved myself…talk about a serious case of stress induced IBS!! I needed to get my phone working, I needed to find a plug.  So I headed to the train station and figured if the trains were still running I’d get out of the city and head to my onward location outside of Brussels.  There was confusion and chaos at the train station too.  But I bought my ticket and got on a train that was heading into central Brussels.  Once I made it onto the train, everything started to feel real.  Little did I know that there had been another attack on the metro.  We made it one station short of where my next train left from.  That didn’t matter in the end because the authorities shut down the whole public transport system.  My French skills were under some serious testing as various people made announcements that I tried to follow.  It was very confusing.

One man noticed some debris in my hair and pulled it out for me.  I suddenly realised I was a dusty mess!  My jeans weren’t torn up, but they were beat up.  My hair was grey, my glasses covered in a thin layer of dust, I had bits of ceiling tucked in all sorts of crevices of my clothing, I had black snot, I had a teary face, I had black soot all around my mouth.  I looked a state!  I got off the train and headed to the concourse, but the army and police were shutting it down and running at us with a long line of tape to get people out of the station as fast as possible.  So I was on the rush again! I was exhausted and crying.  I found my way out of the train station and had just enough juice on my phone to find the closest hotel.  I dashed into the hotel and explained I needed a room because I had just been in an explosion and I was exhausted!!!  The hotel staff were absolutely amazing.

In between all of this, I was messaging Chris and my work to tell them what was happening.  And I was shaking.  Shaking a lot.  Chris reminded me to check myself for injuries. I realised once I got into the hotel that half my face was a bit sore, the back of my head had been banged, I had scraped up my knee and my back just below my ribs was starting to really hurt.  I immediately stripped down as soon as I got into my room and got into the shower.  I cried as I watched the dust run off me down the drain as the sirens continued to wail in the background.

The gravity of what just happened to me was beginning to sink in.  My work have been amazing, they sent a crisis response team came out to the hotel to see me.  I was also checked over by a doctor.  The British Embassy called me to check for injuries and if I needed any consulate assistance.  The general manager of the hotel came by to check on me.  He called the police for me to check if I should leave any details as a witness.  Apparently that wasn’t needed unless there was something in particular that would be critical.  I couldn’t think of anything except the strangely calm wandering man, but I can’t describe him in detail so that wouldn’t be any help.  My work are Currently working on how to get me home to the US sooner than Friday (my planned return – which by the way fills me with horror returning to Brussels airport – oh and the check in desk for American isn’t there anymore, it got blown up).  Clearly I am not going to any meeting today or tomorrow.  They are being awesome.

The lady from the crisis response team said one of the first steps to getting over a traumatic event is to tell my story as it happened.  So I told my story to her and the rest of the team and we even had a little laugh about some things…and now I’m telling it all to you.  So I don’t have to tell it a hundred times over.  If someone asks me, I’ll point them to this blog.

In my honest opinion – the way I saw the events happen – I didn’t hear any gunshots, I didn’t hear anyone shout out in Arabic, I think the first device was diversionary (potentially a suitcase bomb) to divert a stream of panicking people towards the suicide bomber.  I guess we will find out soon enough the chain of events.  But all I know, is that I am glad I sat in the corner of Starbucks, I’m glad I wasn’t still queuing for my coffee 5 minutes before, I would have been so much more vulnerable.  But yes, if I just got on that train out of the airport rather than get a coffee from Starbucks, I would probably be thinking how lucky I am.  Now I am still thinking how lucky I am, but I feel the pain of seeing all those dead and severely injured people, I smell the smoke, I taste the debris, I feel the shock, I hear the explosions (which you know I already have experience of, but this time I didn’t have body amour or a weapon).

This was truly a horrific act of terrorism I have experienced.  I have been through airports in other countries where the security happens before you get anywhere near the building.  I do not want to see this happen to our freedom because then the terrorists win (oh I wrote about that already too – how depressing is that?).

By the way – I’m OK, I’m safe and I love you all (just in case I haven’t told you)!!! X

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43 thoughts on “Starbucks truly is a bad habit

  1. flatwhitetogo85 says:

    Bloody hell. What a horrific experience. You poor thing. I am very pleased that you are (physically) ok. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now, but I really hope you find a way to process this and recover x x x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Perfect Breakdown says:

    Oh my, this is petrifing and I am so relieved you are okay!!! I appreciate you sharing this, for me so many of these terrorist events are such a foreign thing (possibly om naively Canadian?) That I have never encountered someone directly involved in the aftermath. And so, thank you for reminding me that everyone is impacted. Somehow for me, you’ve just out a real face to this and while I desperately wish you didn’t experience this, I appreciate your sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy M. says:

    I’m so glad that you got out of there okay! Also glad that you have people checking in on you and ensuring you’re okay. I hope you’re able to get home safely and without anymore incidents! Take care of yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Justin Schulz says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, though I know it must be difficult to relive. It sounds like you handled your situation incredibly well in a moment of absolute horror and shock. So glad to know that you only have minor injuries. Please be safe, take care of yourself, and hopefully you flight back home is uneventful. I will be praying for your safe return and for Chris too, as I’m sure he’s a nervous wreck as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Erin says:

    Wow, what a terrifying experience!! It’s amazing how a small decision like getting a coffee can change the course of everything. Thankfully you were charging your phone and not in line! I’m glad you are OK and hopefully you can make it home soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. libraryowl33 says:

    Oh my god!! I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that you were there when this happened. I am so glad that you’re ok. Thank you for sharing your story- it is so easy to let these events roll over you and not think about then again. Reading this has forced me to really think about what happened today. Sending you lots of *hugs*, and please continue to let us know how you’re doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. EmilyMaine says:

    Holy cow, what a harrowing experience. That was so not what I expected to read when I opened this blog post! I am so glad you are OK physically and that your work has been so magnificent. Be sure to look after yourself and take advantage of any resources you need to recover mentally. I simply cannot imagine the trauma. It is insane. I was crying just reading your post. x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dipali says:

    So so glad you are ok, must have been so frightening but good to know what happened and glad you were looked after and your army training helped. You are so loved by a lot of people as per all your messages on fb and here. Also, seems that your theory about the diversion tactics was correct! Love you lots xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. notpregnantinrezza says:

    Oh my god, I can’t believe you went through that!! You are such a strong and brave person, it’s always come through in your posts, but certainly in this one. I’m so glad the response from those around you has been supportive. Take care and have a safe trip home x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nara says:

    Dani! Wtf! I can’t believe you were there. I am so sorry you had to experience that and I’m relieved that you weren’t any closer to it than you were. I can’t believe the messed up things that go on in the world… I’ve been thinking about it a lot (as I live in a very religiously divided area) and it never crossed my mind that anyone I knew would be there. I’m so thankful you got out.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chris Rees says:

    What a truly horrific experience you’ve been through Dani… so glad you’re ok. Thanks for sharing your ordeal, that’s an excellent piece of writing xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. valleyally says:

    Omg..the minute I saw the words “Brussels Airport”…my heart sank. So glad to hear you are doing well and that everyone is taking such good care of you. I hope the same for all the others who fled the airport. Writing is therapeutic and hopefully getting all of this down on paper helps take the worry off your mind. Best of luck getting home quickly!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. thegreatpuddingclubhunt says:

    Thanks guys for your kind and heart warming thoughts. I have been literally overwhelmed with love and care!!!

    I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is not easy to mentally digest what happened, I keep thinking about all the dead and seriously wounded that were stretchered out of there…I couldn’t eat anything at all yesterday and barely slept last night. but I can tell you that I have now managed to get back to the UK, staying with my family, and soon be heading back to the US to give Chris the biggest and longest hug (and kiss!) ever!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Nara says:

      I’m really glad that you are with your family. I think these things have a lasting mental impact even when experienced peripherally, so I can’t imagine what it would be like actually to have been there.

      I remember 7/7 in London and the shock of walking through empty streets to try and get out of there, and the panic at the train stations. It’s a very human reaction, whatever it is.

      Thinking of you and if you end up in London and need anything at all, let me know. X

      Like

  14. Pascal LAURENT says:

    Dani, you’re the best ! They said on the radio that everybody would know someone out of the 300 and so victims. I thought I might not as we are 11M in Belgium… I was wrong, unfortunately. I’m so glad and relieved you are OK. You’re strong and bright. You are really impressive. No doubt you will overcome this. My thoughts will accompany you. Hope to see you again. Big hug.

    Like

  15. Recurrently Unlucky says:

    Wow, I can’t even begin to imagine, it must have been so horrific… I’m so relieved you’re ok with only minor physical injuries. I’m sure mentally will take time to recover, but you will get there. Hope you find some relief from your family company right now. I’ll be thinking of you. Hugs

    Like

  16. Will says:

    I am so glad you are safe and soon to be reunited with your wonderful husband. We will also be there for you to help you to get through this in every way we can!!! xxxxxx

    Like

  17. ourgreatestdesire says:

    Holy crap! I am so, so happy and relieved that you are okay and safe!!! Love you lots and sending you huge, huge hugs, my friend! I can’t even begin to imagine the horror you’ve been through. 🙁

    Like

  18. ashleykyleanderson says:

    Oh, Dani… wow. I am just seeing this now and I am so sorry I am so behind on everything. The day of the attack I was praying for everyone over there and didn’t even realize that you were one of the ones I was praying for. I’m so glad you are okay physically. I can’t imagine what Chris must have gone through on the other end of that phone call, feeling so far away and helpless.

    You really have been through a lot of trauma this past year. I think it just bears saying that it’s important for you to take care of yourself as you try to recover and heal. Just from what we’ve been through with the infertility, I feel like I should’ve reached out and talked to someone through it. I probably still should. For you, the trauma has become so compacted now that this could really affect you even many months from now when you think you’ve put it in the past. I’m sure you know all this, and you are such a strong person, but just make sure that you (and Chris) have some resources available in case there is a time when you need some help to process. I wish I was there to give you a big hug. Sending you lots of love. ❤

    Like

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