EXCLUSIVE / A survivor of the Brussels terror attacks has kept his vow to get back on the city’s metro system for his daily commute to the European Parliament. Mark Beamish was in the carriage behind suicide bomber Khalid el-Bakraoui when the terrorist blew himself up at Maelbeek station a year ago today (22 March).
Soon after the bombing, Beamish, a British father-of-two, had told euractiv.com, “I strongly feel it is important to live our lives without fear.”
Mark Beamish, 36, is a European Parliament official. He spoke to EURACTIV’s Political Editor James Crisp on the first anniversary of the Brussels terror attacks.
How are you and have you returned to Maelbeek metro station since the attacks?
I am fine really. Actually, I’ve just had a fantastic day’s hike in New Zealand.
I went back to work two weeks after the bombing. I went back on the metro probably a week after that. I took seriously the warnings of lots of people to take it slowly and take it easy. So, I started off taking the metro for three stops and kind of built up to going down to Maelbeek. Some time after it reopened I started going to Maelbeek again as well.
That must have been a strange experience.
There was a special opening of Maelbeek station for the victims a few days before it properly reopened. You could walk through. There was some staff and ambulance people who had been there on the day and who you could talk to. That was quite good to go there while it was still not in operation. I probably wouldn’t have wanted to go there the first time and simply get off the metro like I had that day. Also, I wouldn’t have wanted to because of the smell. The smell of the explosion was still very potent when I first went there and for a few weeks after that.
The guy I spoke to said they had done everything they could to get rid of the smell. It was a very distinctive smell. He explained it was the smell of everything that was burning that day. My clothes had been covered in that smell so it was very reminiscent of the bombing.
It is still strange now every time I get out at Maelbeek because I know I am walking past a place where I nearly died. And yet I still don’t remember anything from the attack.
Why are you in New Zealand?
All in all, 2016 was a bit of a rotter. It was a turbulent year. Obviously, the Brexit referendum also had an impact on my life. There were two world events, the terrorist bombing and Brexit, which I was directly affected by. It was mainly after the bombing incident that my wife and I decided we didn’t just want to continue as business as usual. So, my wife and my two young boys, who are five and two, are travelling around the world. It is a punctuation mark to draw a line under those events and take some time for the important things, like family.
What are your thoughts as we approach the anniversary?
I am wondering how I will feel. I mean I know it has been coming and I have been watching on the calendar as the day gets closer. My thoughts are certainly with those who were less fortunate than me. Those who died and their families. I am wondering how they will feel.
We didn’t plan the trip so we would be the furthest away possible anywhere in the world. But hopefully that will take away the sting of the anniversary.
Do you still consider Brussels home after the attacks?
Our life is still in Brussels and that’s where we are going back to. We are certainly coming back in August. We have to pay for this trip!
Do you ever feel any anger towards the bombers?
No, I didn’t then and I don’t now. King Philippe, the Belgian king, visited the victims in hospital the next morning. He said “you mustn’t hate them” and that feeling has never emerged in any way.
There obviously is a risk of further attacks. But I am not sure anyone can come up with a magic solution to stop this kind of terrorism.