As Brussels grieves, world landmarks light up in solidarity
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As Brussels grieves, world landmarks light up in solidarity

Hundreds gather in historic square to pay tribute to some 35 dead in Belgium’s worst-ever terror attacks

People light candles in tribute to victims at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) in Brussels on March 22, 2016, following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded.(AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)
People light candles in tribute to victims at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) in Brussels on March 22, 2016, following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded.(AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — “Brussels I love you” says the message written in chalk on a historic city square, a place for raucous celebration that has become a scene of grief after Belgium’s worst terror attack.

Wrapped in the national flag and carrying candles and flowers, Belgians flocked in their hundreds to the Place de la Bourse in the ancient heart of the city to grieve for the dead.

The European Union’s symbolic heart was left reeling Tuesday after some 35 people were killed in bombings at Zaventem Airport and on a metro train.

A lone musician played a cello as a mourner waved a banner reading “United against hate” and another message scrawled on the ground said: “Christians + Muslims + Jews = humanity.”

“It’s important to get together after moments like these,” Leila Devin, 22, told AFP. “It shows we’re united against terror.”

People gather around floral tributes, drawings, candles and notes in front of the Bourse of Brussels on March 22, 2016. (AFP / BELGA AND Belga / Aurore Belot)
People gather around floral tributes, drawings, candles and notes in front of the Bourse of Brussels on March 22, 2016. (AFP / BELGA AND Belga / Aurore Belot)

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel joined the mourners after dark fell and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also paid homage to the dead.

“Tonight I am Belgian,” he said, full of emotion.

Landmarks around the world, from New York’s One World Trade Center to the Eiffel Tower in Paris were lit up in the black, yellow and red of Beligum’s national flag in solidarity.

Near the Place de La Bourse square, the usually bustling pedestrian streets of the city centre were nearly empty, with many shops closed.

A stone’s throw away, there were no visitors by the iconic Manneken Pis statue of a young boy urinating, usually surrounded by a crowd of tourists waiting in line to snap a picture.

People gather at a makeshift memorial at Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) following attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016. (THIERRY MONASSE AFP PHOTO)
People gather at a makeshift memorial at Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) following attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016. (THIERRY MONASSE AFP PHOTO)

“It’s sad, it’s unfortunate, it’s shocking,” said Sofiane, an Algerian student, who had come to pay her respects.

All day, the sound of police and ambulance sirens echoed through the streets, with roads cut off by heavily armed soldiers and police officers.

This combination of pictures created on March 22, 2016 shows colors of the Belgian flag being projected on to (from top L) the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the town council building in Belgrade, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam and Rome's Campidoglio in tribute to the victims of Brussels following the triple bomb attacks that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded. (AFP / AFP AND ANP)
This combination of pictures created on March 22, 2016 shows colors of the Belgian flag being projected on to (from top L) the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the town council building in Belgrade, the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the Royal Palace at Dam Square in Amsterdam and Rome’s Campidoglio in tribute to the victims of Brussels following the triple bomb attacks that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded. (AFP / AFP AND ANP)

As night fell some signs of normalcy returned, with trains running from the main station and some roads opening up.

But on the square, where the country traditionally celebrates the victories of its “Red Devils” footballers, the crowd continued to swell.

Like Belgium’s football team, the attacks have sparked a rare moment of unity in a country that is normally deeply divided between its French and Flemish-speaking communities.

“My mother and I came to show we’re proud of being Belgian and that we’re not scared. Because this morning I was terrified,” said Analphia Desmet, a 22-year-old communications student.

A woman reacts at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) in Brussels on March 22, 2016, following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded.(AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)
A woman reacts at a makeshift memorial in front of the stock exchange at the Place de la Bourse (Beursplein) in Brussels on March 22, 2016, following triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital that killed about 35 people and left more than 200 people wounded.(AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

As more and more flowers were placed on the square, the crowd joined together to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Mourners waved banners saying “Brussels is beautiful” and “Je Suis Bruxelles” (I am Brussels) — a reference to the slogan that became rallying cry after the attacks on Paris’s Charlie Hebdo magazine in January 2015.

“We’re here to say we’re not scared, there’s a dozen of them, but we are thousands,” said Belgian student Juliette.

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