It happened just before 21:00 (9PM), the sun setting on Holland’s capital, the city’s busy railway station gradually cooling down after cycling through hundreds of thousands of passengers on a single summer’s day. The broad streets towards the canal-region still buzzing with a stream of tourists, the buses and trams working overtime to make their schedules, watchful eyes in uniform making sure everything’s alright.
A pair of officers approach a small, black vehicle to ask the driver why he’s parked at a spot that’s off-limits. And then it happened.
The engine roared and the car took off at speed, flashing by pedestrians, hitting some, and then with a loud crash that disturbed the peace in this otherwise calm city came to a halt against a concrete barrier. Just for a moment everyone feared the worst – how many seconds till it blew up? How many men in vests were going to step from the vehicle and add us to the list of Paris, Brussels and Berlin?
As it turned out – none.
— RTL Nieuws (@RTLnieuws) June 11, 2017
Scary but not what it looked like.
It was soon apparent that something had gone totally wrong, but not intentional, and that the driver had most likely become unwell and lost control of his vehicle and steered it into the concrete barrier just a little further ahead from where he was approached by police. Unfortunately, tragically, it injured nearly a dozen people â€“ two of which were seriously injured, a handful of others could be treated on the spot. But this was no intentional deed, no terrorism, no attack on the liberal city, the Venice of the North. It was just a tragic accident. But that’s not what international media were hoping for.
The irony is that Amsterdam is sometimes referred to as “The Free Press Capital of the World” – including annual awards for the most outspoken, daring and courageous journalists who risk everything in trying to get the word out where others don’t. But that didn’t quite spare the city from being thrown to the dogs who’s blood curdling howl can be heard as soon as any blood spills. “BREAKING NEWS!”; “Latest developments” – Tweet after Tweet, Facebook emoticons spilling like tears over the mass media posts online, on TV and on the radio. There was something terrible happening in Amsterdam and by God, they were going to tell it all! The guts, the suffering, all the anger! If it happened in Amsterdam, it could happen anywhere! Hide now and cry in silence!
And then – nothing.
— Jona Wolff (@WolffJona) June 10, 2017
Trending: #IAmsterdam, #DJT, #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.
The angry button bashing till fingers were raw by excited journalists may have spilled more blood than present at the accident scene. Terrorism experts were canceled from going on the air – “Maybe next week, Steve”; Geert Wilders backspaced the Facebook rant he was ready to launch upon his followers, Donald Trump still busy trying to spellcheck the obvious grammatical errors in his Tweet berating the Dutch for being so soft on Muslims.
Our Muslims, we might add. Who belong here. They’re our fellow countrymen. And we’re not sad about missing the media attention, the trending hashtag “#IAmsterdam” or seeing our city or nation-flag plastered over people’s Facebook photo. Actually, we’re glad – it was just an accident.
We hope that everyone involved heals real soon and to the fullest, we’re sorry for the experience but we hope that all those affected can still look back at the city with a good feeling. Because, should the day come, rest assured that we will be there for those that need our care and protection – Amsterdam’s credo “Valiant, Steadfast and Compassionate” is there for a reason. But we wholeheartedly hope, it won’t be necessary any time soon.
For now, enjoy the sunshine, enjoy the city, open your heart – be happy. Amsterdam wants you to.