Campus News

Undeterred by bombings, UB professor plans trip home to Belgium

A memorial in Brussels for victims of the terror attacks. The large words in chalk are in French: "Brussels is beautiful." The "re" in parentheses transforms the word "belles," for "beautiful," into the French word for "rebellious."  Photo: Miguel Discart

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published March 25, 2016

“I booked my tickets last week. Next month, I will be going.”
Werner Ceusters, professor of biomedical informatics

The morning of Tuesday, March 22, began as it always did for UB Professor Werner Ceusters.

He sat down to eat breakfast. He picked up his tablet and loaded the website of The Standard, one of Belgium’s daily newspapers.

And then, all of a sudden, the day was no longer ordinary. The headlines shouted the news: Terrorist bombings at the Brussels airport. A second attack at the Maelbeek metro station in the city. Dozens dead or wounded.

“I was shocked, honestly,” says Ceusters, a professor of biomedical informatics and native of Belgium who worked as a clinician in a Brussels military hospital for years.

“The country was already in a high alert in part because of the Paris bombing, which was orchestrated from Belgium,” he says. “So I was quite sure that an attack would happen, but you never expect it to happen on a given day.”

Like many other Belgians, Ceusters experienced a rapid succession of emotions: Exasperation at the government. Anger at the bombers, as well as those within the country who may have sheltered the attackers. Concern for his family, including three adult children who live outside of Brussels (all are safe). And, finally, defiance.

He returns to Belgium about once a year, and is planning his next trip.

“I booked my tickets last week,” he says. “Next month, I will be going.”

“I think some people will be scared, but the reactions that I saw in the news and over Facebook is primarily that we will not be scared, and we will continue our lives, and we will just be more careful,” he says.

It’s not that the news of the bombings didn’t shake him. He says that while he had not been overly worried for his family’s safety — his loved ones neither live nor work in the precise areas where the attacks occurred — he uses the Brussels airport whenever he goes back to Belgium. And his daughter, who teaches skiing and snowboarding, travels often.

“Next week, it would have been something different because my daughter is a sports teacher, and whenever there is a holiday, and there is one next week, she goes somewhere where there is snow,” Ceusters says. So she could have been at the airport next week.

Nevertheless, he feels it is important to stand against violence by refusing to allow the recent attacks, including those in France, Belgium and elsewhere, to prevent people from living their daily lives. That’s why in April he will board a plane and return home to see his family.