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Gent-Sint- Pietersstation
Lockdown April 2021
This is the main entrance to the city, for those who travel by public transport. It’s Thursday the 15th of April 2021 around five 'o'clock in the afternoon. Normally it would be rushing hour, but today the station is unusually silent. At this moment Belgium is in full lockdown.
The station is covered with propaganda, cautioning people to obey the measures and fear the virus. It seems people want to leave this place as soon as possible. Some shops that where here a year ago, seem to have been abandoned. Are they bankrupted, or just waiting until the pandemic waves off? Everywhere are vending machines available, with mouthmask and disinfectants. The station has become a strange and alien place...

… When I exit through the main entrance, I almost get run over by a kid on a skateboard. I look around everywhere there are people; kids with skateboards, people sitting and talking, lines in front of food trucks, a musician playing the saxophone….
Almost everyone is wearing a mouth mask… under their chin! No one really seems to care about the 1,5m distance the government has recommended. A police bus stands parked in the middle of the scene, but it doesn’t really seem to matter. People are coming together on the square and in the park and they seem to have a good time . I can’t remember the last time there was such a positive vibe here…

...A girl comes skating down from the slope that leads to the Virginie Loveling building. Her skateboard gets stuck behind a ridge and her head violently hits the sidewalk. No movement! No one responds... I feel a slight panic. I should do something and start walking towards her, but then some friends notice her and run towards her. Soon there are at least 10 kids standing around her. She’s crying, she is alive! A shock later I leave the train station towards Citadelpark… In the distance I can hear an ambulance getting closer.

Two months later

I arrive once again at Ghent-Sint-Pietersstation. It is about 13.00 on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June. We are in the last part of the lockdown just before Belgium wants to open up the country once again. The national traveling restrictions have been lifted and the train station seems just as busy as it was before. I see stewards from the NMBS everywhere, some monstrous surveillance device is guarding the side entrance, an extra service desk at the main entrance and lots and lots of personnel walking around. Never have I seen so many of them together in one place…
Once outside there is a market in the square, people are sitting in the park and on the square, but not as much as where two months ago. Most of them are just have a quick snack to then be on their way again. Today there are no skaters present the picnickers have left to other facilities and although the market seems to attract some folks, it seems to be less busy and cosy then it was in April .