BRUSSELS — The Place de la Bourse is like so many other formerly grand European squares. Its 19th-century, largely belle epoque facades are now interspersed with the fluorescent lights of global commerce. Across from Belgium’s historic stock exchange, for instance, there is now a Marriott. And at the bottom of this Marriott, there is a McDonald’s.
After Tuesday’s attacks on Brussels — in which suicide bombers killed 31 and injured hundreds more at the airport and a central metro station — it is largely to this square that the city has come. Throughout the gray, gloomy days that have followed the attacks, thousands have gathered to sing, weep and remember.
Sites such as this have become unfortunate fixtures of European capitals in recent years — the places where everybody goes following a terrorist attack.
After the shooting and bombing spree in November at a stadium, theater and string of restaurants in Paris, it was the Place de la République. After the February 2015 attacks on a Copenhagen synagogue and cafe, it was the city’s Osterbro neighborhood. And now, in Brussels, it is the Place de la Bourse.
People from the Belgian capital and from across the country have come to the square in recent days with offerings honoring the dead — posters, bouquets of flowers and, this being Belgium, unopened cans of beer. Other mourners have come with flags — the black, yellow and red Belgian flag most of all, but also the flags of Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
When asked, many of these people have said they came to express “solidarity,” a term they defined differently.
Sophie van Buggenhout, 41, originally from the Dutch-speaking Belgian region of Flanders, quietly walked into the square with her two blond sons Thursday night, careful to avoid the television crews at the edges and the crowd at the center.
“I want to show my kids — and myself — that we don’t have to accept this violence and that everyone thinks it’s very serious,” she said. “Brussels is so complicated — so many different people. Yet all the world is here.”
Michael Sapart, 26, smoking in the middle of the square, said, “Maybe this is more of a humanitarian identity than a Belgian identity.” He recounted watching a colleague’s face this week when he found out his daughter had been harmed in the terrorist attacks.
“We are all united on this Earth,” Sapart said. “We are all cousins, in the end.”
Many Muslims came to the square throughout the day Thursday, especially for the moment of silence held in the afternoon. They held signs insisting that terrorism is not an inherent component of their religion and that violence is not supported by God.
“It’s important for us to be here, to show the Belgian people that we are with them and that we understand what they are going through,” said Gulistan Haftaro, 20, who moved here from Aleppo, Syria, with her family in 2005.
According to Ndiaye Mouhameth Galaye, an imam at a Brussels Islamic center, the institutional leadership of the Belgian Muslim community agrees on the importance of public engagement. On Friday, for instance, a blood drive was scheduled at the city’s Grand Mosque to benefit the many victims still hospitalized.
On Thursday night, in a square lit only by votive candles and the glow of mobile-phone screens, an impromptu chorus sang verses of old hymns and folk songs. Young girls tidied the display of flags and flowers in the center of the square. Pictures and sayings in chalk covered every last inch of pavement and stone, some of them with names of victims.
One inscription read, in French, “Continue to write, to smile, to speak, to laugh, TO LIVE.”