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Horses to overcome the terrorist attack in Brussels

Laura Marta

Special Envoy to Tokyo

Updated:08/30/2021 02: 15h

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Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is how the situation of Beatrice de Lavalette, when, in March 2016, he was waiting at the Brussels airport to travel to the United States for the Easter holidays. One of the three bombs from the terrorist attack in the Belgian capital, which killed 32 people, was deposited very close to where it was waiting to board. The inopportune moment. So close, that he was not aware of what was happening around him until, suddenly, everything went black, smoke, ash. Not a single day goes by that I don’t return to that moment, to that place. There they are, the prosthetics and the scars.

Doctors who came to the airport after the attack labeled her as a victim with few options to survive and she was among the last to be treated. Luckily or by force or by will or by all this together and more, you can detail it five years later, already recovered from that moment. The bomb and shrapnel caused serious internal injuries, second- and third-degree burns, spinal cord injuries, and consequently amputation of both legs.

In the hospital, he spent the first month in an induced coma, and another four recovering from his injuries. The physical ones, at least, because the mental ones were harder to overcome. No legs, 17 years old. For a time she did not want to know anything about her future life as a person with a disability, or about leg brace options or adaptations. He just wanted to go back to his old life: a compete in athletics and beat guys in speed and long jump, enjoy soccer. Above all, and now she couldn’t, she wanted to go back to DeeDee, her horse, her confidant, her guide, who had saved her from the sadness that she had to live in Brussels, because of her father’s work, away from her friends. The wrong place.

The US ambassador to Belgium visited her one day in the hospital, they talked about the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016. Lavalette paid little attention to her. That was not for her. But it stayed there, in his mind. Her coach, another day, took DeeDee to the recovery center. The ultimate light. “The horses helped me to overcome the accident, they gave me hope, something that I had lost at times”, remember. A few days later, he approached the stables. With no leg muscles, no strength in the rest of his body, he didn’t know how he could command DeeDee, but he knew it was the beginning of the lap.

A year and a half after the attacks, she returned with her family to the United States, and remained at the San Diego Medical Center, where they taught her to be autonomous with a wheelchair and prosthetics. From there, small steps on her orthopedic legs that were huge leaps into the life she wantedHe went back to high school, graduated with his classmates, participated in his first competition as a person with a disability, learned to use a small whip to re-teach DeeDee, qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

On Thursday he achieved 70,265 points in the individual event and a place for today’s free final. Five years after the bomb that cut off her life and legs at that airport, Beatrice is in the right place at the right time.

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