Avoyelles residents with ties to Belgium respond to attack

The world has watched the reports of the recent bombing in Brussels with emotions of anger and sadness for the senseless and cowardly acts of terrorism against peaceful, unarmed civilians.

    Those who have never even been to Belgium or could not locate it on a map have offered support and prayers for the victims of the March 22 bombing at the Brussels Airport and train station.
For native Belgians and Avoyelleans who lived in that nation, the feelings are deeper and more personal.
    “It is very sad and scary,” Belgium native Regine Guillot of Simmesport said. “We need God to protect the people.”
    Genevieve Decuir, also a native Belgian, was in Brussels on a family matter just before the attack.
    “I was shocked when I landed at the airport,” she said. “I was shocked to see military all over the airport. Belgium was always peaceful.”
    She said soldiers with machine guns patrolled the streets of Brussels, on alert for an attack “that they knew was coming, but did not know when or where.”
 
Brussels bombing 
    At last count, 31 civilians were killed and 271 were injured in the three bombs detonated on March 22 at the airport and train station. It is believed the attacks were carried out by at least four terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levent group (ISIL), and also known as ISIS -- Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The “Levant” is an area of the Mideast also known as al-Sham or Greater Syria.
   Three of the terrorists were suicide bombers who died when they detonated their bombs. A third bomb and an assault rifle were found during a search of the airport after the bombing.
   The bombs at the airport occurred around 8 a.m. The metro station bomb detonated at 9:11 a.m. It is not known if the time was intended to reference the 9/11/2001 attacks on the United States or was only a coincidence.
   The bombings are the deadliest terrorist act to have occurred in Belgium. The Belgian government declared three days of national mourning.
 
Genevieve Decuir  response
   Mrs. Decuir, wife of former Marksville City Councilman Dennis Decuir, said she came back from her trip on Feb. 29. She spent 10 days in Belgium, bringing her father home after his visit with her in Marksville.
   Upon hearing of the attack, she found a Facebook site and determined that all of her family and friends were safe.
   “Thank goodness for Facebook,” she said. “It allowed me to check to see if everyone was okay.
   “I called  my brother and talked with Dad,” she continued. “Everyone was scared, but they went on with living.”
   She said she recognized every place that was shown in the news reports.
   Her family lives outside of Brussels. While there was a tense atmosphere in the large city, it was more peaceful and relaxed in the countryside, Mrs. Decuir said. There was also no military presence.
   “As bad as this was, we have to thank God because it could have been a lot worse,” she said. The bombs were at areas near ticket booths. Once a person gets beyond the ticket booths, security is too tight to have allowed an attack  to  occur."
Many more could have been killed and injured in the attacks, including from the third airport bomb that did not detonate.
  Mrs. Decuir does not know if this attack will change how the Belgian people live their lives.
   “People will be more careful,” she said, “but I believe that even if they are scared, they won’t let that stop them from living their lives. For example, I had my birthday and if we had stayed home and done nothing, then ISIS would win. The Belgian people will not let that happen.”
   Mrs. Decuir was born in Africa, where her father was working. The family moved to Belgium when she was 13. 
   She came to Marksville in 1977 as an exchange student for five weeks. She lived with Richard and Margaret Dupuy, her future husband’s cousins. “That’s when I met Dennis,” she said.
He visited her in Belgium after that and in 1980 the two were married. 
 
Regine Guillot response
   Mrs. Guillot said she is “concerned because I do not know what will happen next in Belgium.
   “I called my sister as soon as I heard,” she said. “She said it was tragic and everyone is scared.”
   Mrs. Guillot still has many family and friends in the Brussels area and all were well.
  “I don’t know how this could happen,” she said. “The Brussels Airport was pretty tight in security. It has always been a safe airport.”
   Mrs. Guillot came to Avoyelles Parish as a French teacher in the state CODOFIL program in 1981. 
   She met and married Marvin Guillot in 1984. She left the CODOFIL program, obtained her teaching degree from LSU and taught for over 26 years in Avoyelles public schools. She has also taught in the parish’s parochial schools, teaching at St. Joseph High School, where her husband also teaches.
  “My main concern is for the safety of those people,” Mrs. Guillot continued. “Every country has to do something about their security so this cannot happen again. 
“I am not wise enough to find a solution to this problem,” she said, “but something has to be done so people can be safe. This has to stop.”
 
Carol Moncla Campbell Response
  Moncla native Carol Moncla Campbell and her family lived in Belgium for nine years, from 1975-84. She taught at a school in Brussels. The family lived outside of Brussels, in the town of Waterloo -- site of Napoleon’s final battle. The family returned to Moncla in 1984.
   “I’m just grateful that we lived there when we did,” Mrs. Campbell said. “It was so beautiful and peaceful. You could walk the streets without fear. We’ve been back many times since, and I would not feel comfortable there now.”
   Mrs. Campbell said she and her children recognize the sites in the news reports.
   “This news has affected me and all of the kids,” she said, choking back tears. “It was our home for so many years. It is such a tragedy. I hope they can regroup and bring the city back to its former beauty and safety.”
   Mrs. Campbell said she immediately emailed her friends in Belgium. Everyone was okay.
   “A friend who lives near the airport says the city is more secure now than ever before,” she said. “She said there are police on every corner and people have to show their IDs everywhere.”
She said her family was in the Brussels Airport twice a year, when they would travel to visit family in Moncla.
    “We recognized the terminal,” she said. “It was so familiar, but to see it so destroyed is so sad.”

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