Editor’s Note: The essay below was written in 2001 and appears in the self-published book, Through Our Eyes: A Tapestry of Words and Images in Response to September 11. Printed and distributed in 2002, the book was the result of an independent, volunteer documentary project organized by a journalist and several friends. The author’s bio was written in 2002 and has not been updated.
Antoinette Brouyaux – a vibrant, compassionate and free-spirited 40-year-old – was born in Brussels, Belgium, where she continues to live today with her 12-year-old daughter. Antoinette works in a research center for Belgian consumer organizations and is dedicated to environmental and social justice. One of her primary concerns is sustainable development, especially in the context of consumption and tourism. She’s very active in Ecolo, the French-speaking Belgian Green Party, and also serves as a delegate for the European Federation of Green Parties. Her favorite vacations are those spent visiting other activists in their own territory. Antoinette was in her office when she heard about the Sept. 11 attack. She sent her letter, titled “NY Attacks from a Belgian Point of View,” on Sept. 17.
Just at the moment of the crash in NY, Isabelle Durant, Belgian Green Minister of Transport, was in Washington, speaking with her American colleague. Their meeting was interrupted, and they heard the terrible news.
(So weird … Just before I heard about the crash, we were talking in the office with my boss about an article published in the NY Times, describing the city of Charleroi in Belgium as a disastrous place – very ugly and terrifying … the Chicago of Wallony. Of course, the authorities of the city were very upset and defended themselves and their city.)
Then, somebody comes in and tells about what’s happening in NY! We run quickly to the television and look at the pictures. It is just after the crash at the Pentagon, and the information is not yet clear. How many planes crashed, where and when …
But I think immediately: This is war. Then, I think of my boyfriend, a diplomat who plans to go to New York next Saturday to join ministers and many other important people for a UN summit about children’s rights. I try to reach him by phone: “Marien, I don’t want you to go to NY!” “The summit will certainly be canceled,” he answers …
A few hours later, he tells me he could speak by phone with a colleague in the Belgian Permanent Delegation in NY, where they seem to feel completely lost. “There are no more twin towers now, it’s finished with the twin towers … We’ve to go now, everybody is escaping …”
During the whole evening, we look at the television. Suddenly I remember my cousin is working in Manhattan. I phone my aunt. She says she has news from him and his family; everybody is OK, but his wife is held up in Manhattan for the night.
And then the day after, everybody is telling about a brother, a relative living in NY and anybody who could give some news.
Even from Brussels, NY is full of neighbours. The world is really a global village …
The following days
And then news that never stops. People are getting upset with the emotional and catastrophic information filling newspapers and televisions. “We didn’t get so much information during the genocide in Rwanda,” say some people. “Some human beings are worth more money than others.”
Nevertheless, tragedy is tragedy, even with CNN and intelligent or stupid comments, critical analysis or spicy anecdotes … God bless the firemen.
Then, a question: Is it really a war? Does the answer call for some military initiative? No state has done it, but eventually a terrorist network? Are we so sure it is Bin Laden? Then, how will the US Army counter him? All these young people suddenly mobilized, what will they do? Will the US government stay reasonable? Especially Bush Junior, who caused so many angry reactions here in Europe when he became president; what is he telling now? Sometimes he just looks like a bad actor telling an ugly story to stupid people: “We will be terrific … the best.”
What else, Mister President? What about that bomb on Kabul during the night of 11th September? Was this really an attack from Massoud’s militants against Talibans? Or the personal initiative from one of your officers? How many other ones did CNN hide from public opinion?
Well, everybody tries to do their best. Muslims are very afraid. TV shows some of them threatened here and there. And still no military reaction from the US; until now, 17th September. This is already unbelievable! Are American big children eventually becoming thoughtful adults? Not bad!
Appeals for non-violent reactions run through the Web, some are coming from US citizens. Afghan guys are escaping the country; we don’t see the women on the pictures. It is forbidden to take any photos of them. Some of them are now crying because of Massoud’s murder. Last summer he had supported and signed a Charter for human rights toward women in Afghanistan … We looked at their website today, as my daughter, 12 years old, is preparing a talk about them for school. “Everybody is planning to speak about the US now. Before the crash they all wanted to present the situation in Israël. So, with Afghan women, I will be the only one, Mum! It’s so awful to see how they live there. Isn’t it possible to get more pictures of them, Mum?” As the teacher said … “Hey, here is the map. I need to print it.”
The world is really a global village.