The victims of the terrorist attacks on 22 March 2016 and more particularly those who did not end up in hospital feel completely abandoned by the authorities. The point was asserted by Philippe Vandenberghe, who was one of the first on the scene at Brussels Airport. Upon the day of the incident, when arriving at his office on the airport site Mr Vandenberghe, who has first-aid training, heard an explosion. He immediately went back to the terminal to help the injured, whilst awaiting the arrival of the firefighters.
He explains, “During the first year after the attacks, everything went relatively well, however, I have for some time now suffered from post-traumatic stress, characterised by depression and difficulty sleeping.” The incident and its after-effects have clearly had an effect on him. He goes on, “I also have the sense of being abandoned, that the effects will be exacerbated, and that there is no way of getting out of this. I am trying to obtain help from abroad, as it is difficult to find specialists in Belgium.
Mr Vandenberghe, a member of the victims association V-Europe, remains angry with the authorities. He says, “To begin with, they thought that their assurances would take care of everything, but these only had the minimum effect. Victims of the incident, who were not admitted to hospital, received no assistance. We felt completely abandoned for a whole year, until the parliamentary inquiry committee discovered the issue.”
In corresponding with victims from other countries, Mr Vandenberghe has observed “enormous disparities” in treatment. He says, “Although Spain is at the forefront, Sweden appears to be entirely in a state of deprivation in this regard. Unfortunately, Belgium is below average.”
Despite everything, he does not dread the date 22 March. “I know that I will be very sad on that day, but I am equally happy that commemorations are taking place. I am involved in creating a memorial for the incident. Remembrance is now vital for the victims. It will be very painful, but this is also a time for us to make sense of events and to keep our hopes alive.”