The foiled terror attacks in Belgium over the weekend made me slightly nervous. Not only was I flying the very next morning to Brussels, the embarkation point for the terrorists, but also I was doing so via Turkey – well known to be a transit point for those very bad guys en route to Europe.
I was also sleep-deprived, which makes me hyper-vigilant, and, well, neurotic. So as I waited to board the flight in Istanbul, I passed the time by grading the passengers in terms of my perceived threat level.
I eliminated anyone with a child, especially a cute one, because no one would do anything bad if they had a child with them (would they?) If anything, it would be the child who could be a problem, if seated near me – but I was not concerned with noise pollution at that point. The grannies in their sensible shoes and walkers were off the list too as well as the happy, tired couples returning from a summer vacation in the region (noticeable by the fact that they were traveling wearing Havaianas). And while on the subject of footwear, the Birkenstock wearers were also safe as I figured that no one would spend that on their feet and then blows themselves up. It just wouldn’t make sense. (Croc wearers on the other hand would be a major code Orange).
Having determined that the passengers in the waiting area posed visible no threat, I began contemplating what would await us on landing in Brussels. Would we be taken to a separate holding area, our luggage scanned and dirty washing handled? Would we be deloused and asked to bend over? Or would the super highly trained Belgium Military simply look into our eyes and then our passports, and then eyes again, to determine if we needed to be whisked away into a windowless room that smelled of stale cigarette smoke and something else that was slightly familiar (but that I couldn’t quite place).
With these thoughts in mind, I fell asleep soon after boarding and woke up a few minutes before landing. No one seemed to have taken control of the aircraft whilst I dozed (which was a good thing) and we landed without incident. And in fact it didn’t get more interesting than that. We were not taken anywhere special and no one kept watch on the passengers as we disembarked. No one looked into our eyes, and then passports and then eyes again and no one seemed particularly focused on our footwear. And then I relaxed, because if Europe wasn’t worried, why should I be?
I boarded a train in Brussels. The very same place that 48 hours prior, some terrorists had done the same. With the intention of doing the most damage they could. There was no visible security and no one seemed in the slightest bit perturbed. It was like they hadn’t heard what happened a day earlier, and I was tempted to ask the lady next to me on the train if she had done so. But she was very thin and very focused on the apple she was caressing and nibbling, and I thought it might be dangerous to interrupt that process, so I didn’t ask her, and now will always be left wondering.
Israel has warned its citizens to be cautious when in Europe. Various European States have raised levels of alert and yet it is virtually impossible to detect this in the streets, in the stores, airports and public transportation.
I have no idea if it’s better to live as though nothing has changed. Better to continue to be care-free and to roam the streets of Europe as though summer hasn’t yet ended. There is even a small victory over them if we do so. But my concern is that it will be short lived and what it will take to wake up the slumbering. Wouldn’t it be better to implement measures now before we have no alternative?