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Letters From Abroad: Two hours from terror

Kelsey Morgan, Contributor

On Tuesday morning, I was sitting in a four-hour long intensive class. Like the good attentive student I am, I was paying more attention to Twitter than to the lecture.
That’s when I saw the first tweet about an explosion at the Brussels I immediately switched over to Google to find an article with more details but found nothing. I realized the first tweets about the incident had been sent within the last half hour, and I realized I was about to watch something terrible unfold.
My first thought went to a friend of mine who I knew had a connecting flight in Brussels that morning. Naturally, she was the first person I sent a message to. I found out a few hours later that she was about to land in Brussels when the explosion happened, so the plane changed courses and landed somewhere outside of the city.
I kept up with the status of the attacks on Twitter and various news sites with live updates. I got back to my room after class and started live streaming the news, searching Google and checking my emails. In my room, I was waiting for an email from the Clemson Abroad office or the US Embassy. I was waiting for President Obama to make a statement and waiting to hear if there was a threat in Paris, if I needed to stay where I was or avoid the city.
I was just sitting there waiting for someone to tell me what to do or how to feel. Just as a point of reference, Paris is about two and half hours away from Brussels by train. A lot was running through my mind. An airport had been attacked, a metro station had been attacked and a city had been attacked. But not just any city — the capital of Europe, the headquarters for the European Union, a city I was in just a month ago.
Since I’ve been old enough to understand the gravity of terror attacks, the closest one to me geographically was the San Bernardino shooting last December. That was almost 2,500 miles away at the time. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been only two hours from terror. This is the first time in my life that I’ve had to think through which of my friends are in Europe and which of them could be near Brussels. This is the first time in my life that I’m living in a city that has experienced an awful terrorist attack within the last four months –– a city that could very easily be targeted again.
The Gare du Nord metro station in Paris was evacuated when an abandoned suitcase was discovered. A couple of hours later, it was reopened when authorities determined there was not a threat. Before Tuesday, I was telling someone how crazy it was that despite the November attacks, I wasn’t afraid of coming here. Now, despite how much I want to go see the Eiffel Tower shining in the colors of the Belgian flag, I’m too afraid to get on the metro. 
As far as Clemson goes, I’ve received several emails from my program director and the study abroad office checking on my location and safety. As far as Paris goes, the state of emergency has been extended until May 26. Before today, that hasn’t meant much to me; since I’ve been here, you would never have realized Paris was in a state of emergency. Life here continues to move on, just as it does anywhere. So I am safe, and I am thankful that I was not in the midst of the attacks. And no, I haven’t once had second thoughts about coming to Paris. My thoughts and prayer are with those who have been affected by the attacks.
Paris stood strong in the face of terror, and I know Brussels will too. 
 Je suis Bruxelles.
­­–– Kelsey

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