Chicago’s Belgian community concerned about terrorist attacks in their homeland

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CHICAGO -- Belgians in Chicago spent this morning seeking information from their loved ones overseas and from the Belgian Embassy in Washington, wanting to ensure that their families are safe and mourning those who are not.

Belgians in Chicago are talking to each other and communicating with those in their native country -- a country on Easter holiday when two explosions hit the departures area of the Brussels airport during a peak time for travel this morning.

The explosions were followed by another blast on a subway train near the European Union headquarters.

Belgium's terror alert has been raised to the highest level.

As trains have been diverted and those in the country have been ordered to stay where they are, the process of tracking down family members via telephone and Internet from Chicago has been slow and sometimes difficult.

Belgium was the first country to establish a consulate in Chicago in 1854.  And although Belgians are a small population here in number, they are not in spirit.

"Belgians, I would say, are a resilient bunch," says Honorary Consul Paul Van Halteren.  "It's of course something unusual. We have never had that type of terrorism on our soil, of that size."

Van Halteren advises all those concerned to call the hotline set up by the Belgian Embassy in Washington.

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