Belgium’s King Philippe on Wednesday urged citizens to listen to each other and draw lessons from the “deadly madness” that led three bombers to kill 32 people in the Brussels airport and subway a year ago.
Marking the anniversary of the suicide attacks, in which more than 300 people were injured, the King paid homage to the victims in ceremonies timed with the blasts during the morning peak travel period on March 22, 2016.
“It’s the responsibility of each and every one of us to make our society more humane, and more just. Let’s learn to listen to each other again, to respect each other’s weaknesses,” he said, as a new monument was unveiled to the victims in the Belgian capital’s European quarter.
“Above all, let us dare to be tender,” he said.
Earlier, at Brussels Zaventem airport, the king and Queen Mathilde joined Prime Minister Charles Michel and government ministers in a minute’s silence outside the departure hall where two suicide bombers blew themselves up. A third man, suspected accomplice Mohamed Abrini, is awaiting trial.
Airport staff, security and rescue personnel stood watch as the names of those who died were read out, accompanied by a single cello.
Inside the departure hall, a large wreath lay in a cordoned-off area.
In moving testimony, Lars Waetzmann, who was wounded and whose wife Jennifer died at the airport, told of how he has been plagued by questions, but also warmed by simple gestures of rescuers and people’s response since.
“What if we would had left 10 minutes later? What if we moved a little slower? What if?” he said. “In a split second our world changed.”
“On the 22nd of March, 2016, we have seen the worst but also the best of mankind,” he said.
Around 900 people now number themselves among the victims to have suffered physical or mental trauma in the attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group.
Commemorations also took place at the Maelbeek subway station, where 16 people were killed.
Belgium has remained on its second-highest alert level since the bombings a year ago, meaning that the threat of an attack is possible and likely but not immediate. Soldiers continue to guard key buildings and transport links, and conduct random patrols in public areas.
City Mayor Yvan Mayeur told The Associated Press that “people from Brussels reacted well, citizens showed that we must keep on living, that there is a will to live, and that life must not change, together with our values and way of life. I think that is important.”