Timing was everything in the Brussels airport on Tuesday morning, March 22. Had my taxi driver showed up 3 minutes later, I would have been walking into the center of the blast zone. For those who were unaware, I was very lucky to survive the Brussels airport terror attacks with nothing more than a minor leg injury. In the safety of my home now and with my leg healing, I want to take the time to share the part of my trip when I was just Mark and not a bombing victim. There was a ‘before’ and now I am very lucky to be blessed with an ‘after.’
Invited by my good friend, Martine Flamen, the trip was both business and pleasure. The Aqua & Move convention was a success and I enjoyed teaching a workshop on choreography and a couple of master classes. The convention finale was a huge master class filled with aqua enthusiasts and taught to live music with a drum percussion band. Prior to my trip, I had made arrangements to produce three original Fitmotivation videos with European fitness friends. These three videos are posting in April and May.
While in Europe, I celebrated my birthday with my Belgium friends and lots of Belgium beer with a party hosted by Martine. And Martine’s birthday present to me was a day in Paris via the fast train. Among other things, we enjoyed a croissant near the famed opera house and a glass of champagne on the Champs Elysees. Provided with some extra free time due to an event cancellation in Poland, I spent a few afternoons wandering the cobblestone streets of the beautiful city of Gent, enjoying afternoon coffees and some famed Belgium beers.
It is important for me to write these memories down to remind myself that my trip to Belgium cannot and will not be remembered simply by an act of terror. My trip to Belgium was filled with fun, friendship and Fitmotivation. My experience in the airport that morning is not what defines myself, or my trip, or the beautiful country of Belgium.
I don’t really want to talk about what happened to me on that morning anymore. I gave my interviews to the media and I have provided all I remember. Instead, I would like to address the men who pushed their bomb-laden luggage through the airport on the morning of March 22 and blew themselves up.
I probably passed you as I walked into the Departures Hall. I recall the airport being filled with excited children and their families on that morning, heading out for Easter vacations. If your goal was to kill husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters – you achieved it. You get that much. You took the lives of people who were loved – forever scarring those left behind. But the families of those you killed will find ways to honor their loved ones far into the future. They will create scholarships, memorials, funds, charitable causes and more to celebrate the light and love of those who were lost. They will smile again, they will laugh again and they will see sunrises and sunsets. You on the other hand have simply been cast into darkness. Your names will be forgotten, your cause non-celebrated and your mission unfulfilled.
And if your goal was to inflict grievous, life changing injuries on innocent people – you achieved it. But those people you injured will be loved, supported, cared for and forever respected as courageous survivors. They will fight to overcome their injuries and those who love them will admire and applaud every accomplishment. Who applauds your cowardly act of blowing up families and small children?
If your goal was to terrorize the people of Belgium – you achieved it, but only for a brief time. The people of Belgium went to restaurants that night. They got on trains the next day. They gathered to drink coffee in sidewalk cafes and beer in local pubs. Tourists walked down the cobblestone streets taking pictures of the beautiful canals and churches. The people of Belgium gathered in public in the days after, holding hands, lighting candles and defying you with humanity and love.
And as for me, you missed me by 3 minutes. I get to move on with my life. You don’t. I am hereby resigning my role as bombing victim. I will forever more be a survivor of terrorism, but now it is time to be me again. And I realize how blessed I am among the survivors to be able to do just that.
I am reclaiming Mark. My leg is healing quickly and I have hopes of returning to my classes next week. I am scheduled to film my new video, Liquid HIIT Hi/Lo on April 21. I have events scheduled in April and look very forward to seeing my aqua friends in Atlanta and in the Pacific Northwest. And then of course there is IAFC in May.
However, I cannot move on without first giving thanks. I will forever be grateful to Martine and Phillip. I still get emotional and start crying when I think of what you did for me. To all of you who have sent messages of care and concern – thank you. The love of the aqua community and all of your support and encouragement got me through a very dark time. But now…please just think of me as Mark.
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