Chicagoans feel ripple effect from Brussels attacks

Belgian journalist Leentje De Leeuw had a rude awakening early Tuesday morning as she was bombarded with texts and emails from friends and family.

De Leeuw, the Chicago-based correspondent for Belgium's largest daily newspaper, said the Brussels attacks, which left at least 34 dead and more than 120 injured, were shocking but “not really a surprise.”

“People were asked to stay in their houses,” De Leeuw said. “My mom told me she couldn't go grocery shopping. You hear different kinds of reaction. You have a lot of people that say, 'let's not be afraid. Let's go out on the streets of Brussels, have lots of Belgian beer and show them we are not afraid.' And then of course you have people who say, 'you have to close the borders now.'"

At least nine Americans were injured in the bombings and hundreds more had their travel plans put on the backburner.

Emma Goodwin, a Palatine native, is one of seven University of Illinois students spending the semester at a college in Brussels’ suburbs.

“I didn't really think up until this point that it was a dangerous place,” Goodwin said. “But I guess now all of us have a newly realized sense of caution when we're there. Like anything could be happening anywhere."

Goodwin and her classmates were visiting Prague when Brussels was attacked.

The Illinois students flew back to Brussels’ second airport Tuesday afternoon and boarded a bus arranged by the university to take them around the city back to their school.

Goodwin said the experience has been nerve-wracking.

"None of us have ever been worried to fly before, and now we're kind of all scared and jittery,” Goodwin said. “We've just been really nervous all day feeling like…I don't know, scared."

The U.S. state department has placed Europe on its worldwide caution list and advised Americans traveling abroad to maintain a high level of vigilance.