Ryan Alexander-Tanner

MY FAMILY is from Belgium. Well, on my dad's side they're from Belgium, and even then, it's just his mom that's from Belgium. My grandmother is in her 80s now, and still bright and curious and lovely as ever. Maybe lovelier than ever, even. She has a keen wit—I'm a professional comedian, and I'm lucky if I'm half as quick as she is. She has a loving heart and a kind disposition, and any grandchild could say about their nana, but it's true and it's remarkable and it's made even more remarkable when you consider the trauma and heartache and horror she lived through. My grandmother survived the Holocaust. (I capitalize that, right? Are there other holocausts? I know there are other genocides, but I guess we branded ours? I digress.)

My grandmother lost most of her family and the entirety of her home. She fled her native Belgium... actually, that's not right. She was chased out her native Belgium by the gnashing teeth of the piece-of-shit German soldiers marching in lockstep under the orders of Adolf Hitler. She fled because she had to, she fled because in the midst of being very unlucky (genocide!), she was very lucky (she got out). She was hidden away by some Catholic nuns until she could escape to the United States of America. She was joined by her sister, but not many other members of her family made it out. She came to the States and met my grandfather (who had also fled the Holocaust) and had my dad and my two aunts and then she had a new family, and then she had grandkids and the family got bigger, and the Germans may have tried to take an axe to us, but the tree grew back and it grew back stronger.

Days like today, I think about my grandmother. It's tragically, agonizingly fitting that this latest terrorist massacre happened in Belgium, where my grandmother's family was once terrorized. There is a comfort, however small, in looking at my grandmother. There is a comfort in looking at a woman who has stared down evil until evil blinked. A woman who confronted monsters and was not turned into a monster. She's done it once. Belgium has done it once. I know they'll do it again.