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By Farah Salhi and Samantha Koester
BRUSSELS (Reuters)

The second anniversary of a militant attack in Belgium in which 32 people died brings back painful memories for Walter Benjamin, whose right leg was partially amputated because he was caught in a bomb blast at the airport

The government said last year it would grant survivors victim status, making them eligible for a pension and reimbursement for medical costs but Benjamin said Belgium has done too little to help survivors return to their daily lives.

 

A member of the staff reacts during a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport
A member of the staff reacts during a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport, commemorating the second anniversary of twin attacks at Brussels airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

 

“It’s the government’s responsibility to protect its own citizens,” said Benjamin, who wrote a book to help him cope. “People have been abandoned.”

Soldiers have patrolled Brussels since three young Belgian Muslims blew themselves up with suitcase bombs at the Maelbeek metro station and Zaventem airport on March 22, 2016.

 

Belgium's PM Michel attends a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport
Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel attends a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport, commemorating the second anniversary of twin attacks at Brussels airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

 

But Benjamin and other victims say they still have security concerns as they deal with the memory of the attacks.

Philippe Vansteenkiste’s sister was killed in the attack and he now runs a group for victims. He said there were around 500 direct and indirect victims and more were coming forward.

 

 

“People walked away thinking ‘I was lucky, I escaped,’ but then PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) starts,” Vansteenkiste said.

Benjamin was on his way to visit his 16-year-old daughter in Israel when the airport bombs went off. In the aftermath, he said a Muslim man came to his aid. He recalled the moment to argue that not all Muslims should be blamed for the attacks.

Since then, Benjamin finds himself hurrying through airport terminals and security checks. Talking to other survivors and fellow amputees, he says, has helped him heal.

 

(Writing by Samantha Koester and Lucasta Bath; Reporting by Farah Salhi and Natalie Rice; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

 

Belgium's Minister of Interior Jambon, Belgium's PM Michel, and officials attend a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport
Belgium’s Minister of Interior Jan Jambon (L), Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel (R), and officials attend a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport, commemorating the second anniversary of twin attacks at Brussels airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

 

Member of the staff comfort each other during a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport
Member of the staff comfort each other during a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport, commemorating the second anniversary of twin attacks at Brussels airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

 

Belgium's Interior Minister Jambon, PM Michel, and Foreign Affairs Minister Reynders attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels
Belgium’s Interior Minister Jan Jambon, Prime Minister Charles Michel, and Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

 

People attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels
People attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

 

A man in a wheelchair attends a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels
A man in a wheelchair attends a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

 

People attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels
People attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

 

People attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels
People hold flowers as they attend a ceremony at the Maelbeek metro station to commemorate two years since bombings at Brussels airport and a metro station, in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

 

Members of the staff comfort each other during a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport
Members of the staff comfort each other during a ceremony at Brussels Zaventem airport, commemorating the second anniversary of twin attacks at Brussels airport and a metro train in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Vidal