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Europe

How is Brussels coping after the terrorist attacks?

The Belgian government has urged citizens to return to their normal lives. As Kathleen Schuster reports from Brussels, just because people are saying they're fine, doesn't mean normalcy has been restored just yet.

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Taxis were in high demand the day after

terrorist attacks

struck Brussels' transportation hubs. When mine finally arrives at my hotel, we drive to the Place de la Bourse, where many other taxis have stopped. There, people have gathered there to remember the victims.

The neoclassical building's pointed roof looms over a large crowd. On the steps,

anti-terrorism protesters

wave flags and signs, chanting against hate. Onlookers dancing and hugging watch and cheer, while beyond them another group stands around candles lit for those who died.

Belgien Brüssel Demonstration Schweigeminute Anschlag

A French college student in Brussels holds the sign "Pis & Love," a play on words referring to the city's famous Manneken Pis statue and a new anti-terrorism symbol

Reporters illuminated by bright camera lights form a wall between these peaceful protests and yet more onlookers, who often find themselves inadvertently walking into the camera crews' shots.

On the stairs, protesters sing "Amazing Grace." Others a few meters away, beyond the many chalk drawings left since yesterday, someone begins to play guitar.

Brussels in shock?

Other parts of the city - the train station, for example - are devoid of the joy and fervor reverberating from buildings that surround the Place de la Bourse.

Passengers taking Brussels' subway had to undergo two security checks at the central train station on Wednesday. A handful of soldiers stood out in the hub among such a small number of travelers, it seemed less like 5pm than 5am but for the sun.

Soldiers have become a

common sight

since the Paris attacks, but on Wednesday they were ready for immediate response in full camouflage, assault rifles in hand.

I begin to take a picture of two soldiers whose backs face me as they look toward the sunset. Even from a few meters away, one turns to me, tries Flemish and then French: "Taking photographs of security activities is illegal," he says, slightly muffled by the camouflage cloth covering both his mouth and nose.

Belgien Brüssel Sicherheitskräfte Militär Polizei

Brussels security forces stand guard outside the Central Station

I ask people how Wednesday has been going and they respond with some version of "fine." A concierge at my hotel says that since Tuesday they've had over 300 cancelations. But, he adds quickly, today is much better than yesterday. Yesterday, they had no idea what was happening.

Watching the protesters at the Place de la Bourse, Irish ex-pat Kevin Hiney points out that the relative calm in Brussels might be related to the long Easter weekend, or that the city's terrible traffic sometimes only affects certain pockets of town. Everyone has talked about the attacks, but whether people are in shock or denial is difficult to say from the outside.

"Something bad has happened. What more can you say?" he says.

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