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Powerful images emerge as the world reacts to Brussels attacks.

A quote by Fred Rogers has become a go-to reaction to disaster.

On March 22, 2016, more than 30 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Belgium's capital city, Brussels.

Terrorist organization ISIS claimed responsibility for the destruction.


Airport staff hug as passengers are evacuated from Zaventem airport after the attack. Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images.

There's a famous quote by Fred Rogers about looking for "helpers" amid disaster.

It can be applied to just about any devastating situation, but it always seems especially poignant after a terrorist attack:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." — Fred Rogers

It's easy to look at disaster and see the worst in people. It's easy to question your faith in humanity after such an event. It's easy to become completely and totally apathetic, to let cynicism win. But if you look closely, you can see the helpers Mister Rogers spoke of.

The response to this morning's terrorist attack in Belgium is no different: Helpers are out there.

A message written on the ground near the city's center reads "Brussels is beautiful." Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images.

Using hashtags like #IkWillHelpen ("I want to help") and #PorteOuverte ("open house"), the people of Brussels offered shelter to those with nowhere to stay.

After the attacks, people were left without housing and without a means to travel elsewhere. This is what makes the #IkWillHelpen and #OpenHouse hashtags such a necessary, loving response in the face of terror. Embracing strangers instead of shunning them will always be the most human response to tragedy.


Public transportation quickly became overwhelmed, so the helpers of the world did what they could to ensure safe passage.

Cars began picking up strangers at bus stops, giving them rides.


A hashtag popped up for people willing to help organize a carpool.

People leave messages and flowers outside the stock exchange building in the city center of Brussels. Photo by Nicolas Maeterlinck/AFP/Getty Images.

Others created tributes to the victims in solidarity with neighboring France, which was struck by an attack last November.

Two images picturing the color of the Belgian flag — a drawing by French cartoonist Plantu and the famous Belgian comic character Tintin — in tribute to victims of triple bomb attacks in the Belgian capital. Photo by Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images.

A woman leaves a bouquet of flowers next to a French national flag with the words "Paris Brussels Solidarity" at the fence of the Belgian embassy in Paris. Photo by Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images.

Politicians around the world weighed in, but two statements stand out in highlighting the importance of compassion, understanding, and, yes, helpers.

The first comes from U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, praising the helpers of Belgium:

"One of the goals of these terrorists is to drive us apart through fear and hatred. The people of Belgium are reminding us why terror will never succeed. They are providing shelter to tourists and strangers throughout the country, and the hashtag '#ikwillhelpen,' which means 'I want to help' in Flemish, is trending throughout Europe."

A sign reading "Share your love" stands at a memorial at Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France. Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images.

The other is from President Obama, speaking from Cuba:

"We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people. We will do whatever is necessary to support our ally Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible. We must be together regardless of nationality or race or faith in fighting against the scourge of terrorism. We can and we will defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world.”

A Belgian flag reads "We are all Brussels" at the Place de la Bourse memorial. Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images.

Sometimes the world can be a dark place. What's important is that we don't forget about the light that follows it.

We can't fight hate with more hate. We must look to those who refuse to respond out of hatred or vengeance, but instead with a message of love and peace. That's how humanity wins.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Family

Two sisters ask their stepmom to adopt them with sweet memory book

"We were already calling her mom because it felt so natural."

Gabriella Ruvolo/TikTok

Gabriella and Julianna Ruvolo asked their stepmom to adopt them in a touching video.

Sisters Gabriella and Julianna Ruvolo know that they're extremely lucky. Their stepmom Becky Ruvolo has been there for them for most of their lives and it's clear that they're grateful to her for it. On May 9, Gabriella posted a video to TikTok to share the very special way the young women honored their stepmom for Mother's Day.

In the short clip, you can see Becky flanked by the two girls, flipping through a book. On the video are the words "After 12 years… we finally asked our step-mom to adopt us." As Becky goes through the pages, you can see her becoming increasingly more emotional before she gets to the last page. By then, all three of the women are crying.

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