My first memory of terror is hearing on the radio news that terrorists had hijacked a train in The Netherlands and executed the train driver and crew. A few minutes later, the broadcast was interrupted again to announce that the terrorists had also occupied a school and had taken the staff and children hostage. Terrorists from Maluku, now part of Indonesia. Actually, the terrorists were Dutch citizens, second generation immigrants from Maluku. In their eyes they were freedom fighters who wanted to achieve the independence from Indonesia for Maluku that was promised their parents and ancestors by the Dutch Government. But for us, they were terrorists, cowards who killed and terrorized innocent civilians.
I remember looking at my shocked mother when we heard the news and the first thing she said was “call Milly and ask if she is ok”. Milly was my school time girlfriend and my mama liked her a lot. Milly was proud Maluku, just like her parents and grandparents. I called Milly’s home but there was no answer. I called again, no answer. When dialing again, my mother told me to stop wasting time and just go to her house. My mother really liked Milly and was obviously worried about her. So was I! So I jumped on my bike and drove over as fast as I could. The curtains were closed, very odd for the middle of the day. I rang the doorbell, nobody responded. I rang again, still nobody. I opened the mail opening in the door and shouted through “It is me, open the door please”. “Go to the backdoor” was the whispered response from her mother. Through the backdoor I went into a dark house and got more and more worried with every step into the darkness. I started to wonder what was going on, was her brother involved in this? Maybe her uncle? What was going on here, why sit in the dark in the middle of the day? “We are afraid people will attack us for what is happening…” and the look on her mother’s face was even more impressing me than her words. The whole family was there. Her brother, her uncle and aunt, her grandparents. In the dark, the curtains closed, silent.
I stayed with Milly and her family until late that evening, but first I called home to tell my mother that Milly and her family were ok. I explained my mother what was going on and I could hear how concerned she was. My mama didn’t have to say a word, we both knew that “they will come for us” was something my mama still feared every single day as a Holocaust survivor. Normally, hearing my mother’s voice would always calm me down but this time her voice made me feel even more concerned and I started to feel restless and started to understand why Milly didn’t want to go to school the next day. But I changed her mind and promised to protect her, no matter what. Silly me, how could I forget my friends. They all showed up in front of Milly’s house the next morning and we went to school as a group. Let no one say a word or even look funny… and no one did, to be honest.
Our Marines ended the hijacking, life wend on and all returned to normal. Almost normal, not for the hostages, not for the next of kin of the executed victims. And especially not for the unfortunate casualty during the liberation of the train by our Marines. Somehow normal that is because since those days, Milly and her family were checked by the police a lot. I can’t remember that she was ever checked by the police before this happened and now it happened many times.
Since those days, many years ago, it feels like terror attacks are somehow always there and it has become worse and worse since then. Maybe, I have the feeling that it is much worse now than it was back then because there is more news available from all over the world, maybe there is really more terror in the world. Nowadays, terror is there, always there. Suicide bombers seem to strike every day and everywhere and the news about it never seem to stop. Sometimes, the terror is in places I have never heard of before but I realize there are people involved. Innocent victims of cowards. Other times, the attacks are in places I have been. Zaventem Airport in Belgium for example, I have been there so many times that I know the airport with my eyes closed. Munich, I was in shock while hearing all the names of places and streets on the radio during the terror shooting rampage. Istanbul, I have been there a lot and have many friends there.
Today Izmir. Beautiful Izmir where I have spent a lot time working with fantastic colleagues, enjoying dinners at night and taking pictures of sunsets over the harbor. I can draw a map of the boulevard and point out which restaurant is where, where they have the best food or the best prices or both. Last year was my last business trip to Izmir and I miss that place, I have many friends there. Today, a terror attack in Izmir as Turkey is suffering from so much lately. Again, too close and personal. Again fearing for the safety of my friends. Again feeling relieved when the last one wrote “No worries, I’m ok” and again feeling deep dark anger inside me over all this.
I am tired of praying for the ones who I feel honored to call my friends. I am tired of fearing for their lives. I am tired of trying to understand how their lives must be, living under constant threat of terror. I am tired of incompetent politicians driving this world from one violent conflict to the next. I am tired of mourning for the friends I have lost in terror, in wars, in violence over power. I am tired of suppressing my anger. I am tired of all this.