Rotary Outbound Exchange Student
Report from Brussells
Katie Pellegrino
March 22, 2016
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On March 22, 2016 Katherine Pellegrino  wrote:
Actually...not the Alps.


Hi, it's good to hear from you!
My school started late today, so luckily I was well outside the city when these events occurred, however, I have friends who were in the city and, a few, who were actually at the airport this morning. Everyone I know is safe, but it makes the situation a lot more real. Everything has calmed down a lot since this morning. My host mom and I went to pick my brother up early from school and it was a mess of traffic as parents flooded in to get their kids. Some schools, on the other hand, went into lockdown and wouldn't release anybody until this afternoon. Everyone's a little shocked, but, at the same time there's an odd, and almost sick, feeling of relief in the air.
Brussels has been on high alert for terrorist attacks since the Paris attacks back in November and the fact that something has finally happened puts people at ease to hope that this is the climax. A good example of this is the fact that, after the Paris attacks, school was closed for two days, however in this case school reopens as usual tomorrow. Everyone is in a shock, as is to be expected, and the news has been running all day. An odd part for me is the fact that I know these places and have been to them, thus making all of the images and videos that are emerging a lot easier to visualize.
A point that is clear to everyone, however, is that what has happened was an international attack as it took place both near the European Union and directly in the national airport. There's a clear sense of solidarity as it's not just the Bruxellois who were affected, but people from all over the world. The most alarming aspect that only now is starting to emerge since things has calmed down, is a reinforced sense of racism and hatred towards Arabic people and Muslims. Already, I had become swiftly aware of the tense situation in Brussels due to the high concentration of these groups living in the region; however, the recent attacks, which I believe were claimed by ISIS, has only heightened these tensions and I am concerned for what radical response might follow. For me and probably most people directly involved, it seems foolish to blame an entire people and religion for what has happened. The only people who are responsible for this tragedy are the people who decided to walk into the airport and metro this morning and detonate those explosives along with the orchestrators behind them.
This, along with the other events that have happened this past year, have definitely had an impact on my exchange. However, I think it is important to have had these experiences and, furthermore, it has only helped to solidify my intention to become a photojournalist and/or someone who responds to disaster situations at some point in my life. 
Again, I can't thank you and the Rotary Club of Cuyahoga Falls enough for giving me this amazing opportunity! I'm already approaching my seven month mark and I'd say I'm in a good place. I'm looking forward to what comes next, appreciating what has already happened, and living in the moment to enjoy every second! Thank you for checking in, I really appreciate it, and I hope you are doing well.
Katie Pellegrino