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Yorker abroad sees effects of Brussels attack

Christopher Dornblaser
717-505-5436/@YDDornblaser

Almost 12 hours away from the Tuesday morning Brussels attacks, a Yorker in Zurich, Switzerland, was seeing the effects there.

Deborah Yonick, of Glen Rock, wife of York Dispatch digital content manager Bill Kalina, is in Zurich working as a freelance writer for Baselworld, the biggest watch and jewelry show in world, in Basel, Switzerland. Zurich is 300 miles from Brussels. The show runs for a week and typically brings in thousands of people internationally.

Yonick said she always wondered, because of the international nature of the event, if it might be a target for attacks.

On Tuesday morning, explosions were reported at a Brussels airport and subway station, claiming the lives of at least 34 people and injuring almost 200. The Islamic State took responsibility for the attacks, claiming its extremists detonated suicide belts in both the airport and the subway.

The Belgian government reported 20 dead in the subway station and 11 dead at the airport. Exact numbers are expected to be announced Wednesday.

Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level and shut down the airport through Wednesday, ordering a citywide lockdown. They deployed about 500 soldiers onto Brussels'  empty streets to bolster police checkpoints.

In Switzerland: Yonick said the security presence at the event in Switzerland increased drastically after the attacks.

“They just doubled and tripled it up,” she said, adding that security teams limited the number of entrances to the four convention halls to about one or two to search bags of people entering.

"Police were all over the place," she said. "They were checking bags, they had dogs — police dogs — there's a very big security presence."

Yonick said everybody there was talking about the attacks.

"A lot of people had friends in that area, you could feel the sense of fear," she said. Yonick added that she had not heard if anyone there knew anyone hurt in the attacks.

Travel: The uneasiness is also affecting travel, as Yonick said people are allotting extra time to get through security. She is leaving for York Wednesday, and she said she heard some people were waiting up to twice as long in airport security.

“People are nervous and wanting to leave a lot of extra time for travel,” she said, adding that she had heard people are suggesting others leave for the airport three to four hours before their scheduled flight, just to get through security to make it to their planes.

Yonick said the attacks being so close is nerve-wracking.

"I'm already on guard as it is," she said. "It's very close to home."

"I feel awful for the people in Brussels," she said. "It's a scary time."

At home: On Wednesday, the York Interfaith Community will be sponsoring a Service of Healing in response to the attacks, at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Israel on 2090 Hollywood Drive.

The York Interfaith Community said in an announcement for the service that by standing together, people can discover how much more in common they have rather than how much can divide them.

For more information, search for Service of Healing on Facebook.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com.