Horrified Belgians march through knife-attack town
Families of the victims were too overcome with grief and shock to attend the memorial march organised by youth groups.DENDERMONDE - Horrified, grieving and asking why, thousands of Belgians marched Sunday through the town where a macabre knife attack at a nursery left two babies and a woman dead.
The grim procession, led by a girl wearing a crown of dead branches and white flowers, followed by 150 young scouts, made its way silently towards the nursery where the babies and a 54-year-old woman were stabbed to death Friday.
Families of the victims were too overcome with grief and shock to attend the memorial march organised by youth groups, which according to police drew as many as 8,000 people.
Prior to the march, a church service was held in memory of Korneel and Leon, and Marita Blindeman, who had been killed as she tried to protect the babies.
The crowd meandered through the streets before arriving in front of the Country of Fables creche, where flowers, candles, stuffed animals and messages of sympathy had been piled since the unthinkable attack.
"We are broken," said a man, Louis, in tears after travelling from the province of Brabant.
Shopkeepers attached white ribbons to their doors along the route of the procession, which, as a testament to a community numb with pain, was sombrely decked out without mournful banners and slogans.
"We cannot understand how anyone could attack the most vulnerable, the babies," said Piet Buyse, mayor of the town of 40,000 some 30 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of Brussels.
"We are here because we don't understand what happened in our town, because we are sad and especially because there are people around us who have a lot more pain," said the mayor in a brief address.
"We want to be at their sides."
A 20-year-old man, identified by Belgian media as Kim De Gelder, was charged Saturday with killing the babies, aged six and nine months, and the nurse.
In an attack that shocked the nation, the man - his face covered in face paint - went on a heavily armed rampage of the nursery, injuring 10 children and two staff, some seriously.
After staff opened the door, he barged into the centre with a 30-centimetre (12-inch) long knife and began slashing some of the children lying in beds, none more than three years old.
The man, who was arrested shortly after the carnage, was grilled by police and later that day appeared before a judge who charged him and placed him under arrest, said the prosecutor in Dendermonde.
He has so far given no reason or explanation for his attack.
While the tragedy has made many Belgians question the safety of their children in schools and nurseries, a government minister attending the march said it was impossible to anticipate such an unfathomable attack.
"There have to be rules to limit access, and there already are, but we cannot transform nurseries into bunkers," said the minister for children for the region of Wallonie, Catherine Fonck.
"We will never be able to stop a determined madman from getting past these kinds of checks," she said.