A visibly shaken Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands somberly addressed her rattled nation on Queen's Day, the day that traditionally honors the birth of her grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina. Earlier that day she and her entire family (including crown Prince Willem Alexander) were the intended targets of an attack in the western village of Appeldoorn by a crazed motorist who killed five (plus himself) with another 12 in serious or critical condition in hospital.
The assailant was a recently laid off 38-year old former member of the Dutch Security Services from the town of Huissen. He spoke to officers on the scene before losing consciousness and dying a few hours later in hospital.
He confirmed the Royal Family was indeed his target and it was shocking and sobering to all in the country how close he came to succeeding. He left a trail of broken and dead bodies, some thrown up to 10 meters in the air before coasting to a stop at the foot of a monument, just meters short of the startled Queen and her family's open top bus. Indeed the man gaping in the photo at the scene is Crown Prince Willem Alexander. As many commentators have noted, had the car been loaded with explosives, the outcome would have been devastating to The Netherlands.
Queen's Day is a tradition festival day of partying across Amsterdam and The Netherlands. Each year two communities are chosen well in advance for a Royal visit. For weeks the entire surrounding community spit polishes and shines everything to perfection. Her Majesty and the Crown Prince inspect artists, thespians and large groups of wide-eyed children and very proud adults. My mother-in-law sits glued all day to the television as national telly broadcasts their entire day-long tour. So one can only imagine the horror millions witnessed live.
Whilst there is an unseen but ever present security blanket (dozens of unarmed security personnel were scene racing from the crowd within seconds of the crash to secure the scene and offer aid to the stricken) it had a gapingly porous hole.
When I lived in The Netherlands, it was shockingly reassuring, even after 9-11, to be able to walk through the Binnenhof's courtyards. This is as much home to the Dutch Tweede Kamer or Parliament (and Dutch Minister President Jan Peter Balkenende -- a $1000 answer on Jeopardy) as the US Capitol Building and grounds.
Indeed on one visit we were held back by one man with long arms as Minister President Balkenende exited his office and entered his car which sped away with only one other as his security detail. I could not imagine standing 10 feet away from the US President under any circumstance without 1st clearing a locked down security perimeter.
When the G-20 recently played London, aside from a total security lock down, one could tell threat levels based on the length of the motorcade and vehicles used. President Obama had a 12-car Secret Service motorcade led by The Beast, his specially created armor plated behemoth Cadillac limousine whilst others arrived in 1-2 car motorcades led by a City of London police motorcycle.
In the Binnenhof there were no ubiquitous metal screening body scanners or airport bag scanners, something even visitors to the Welsh Assembly Government Offices (but not employees) in Cardiff Bay must navigate).
Like Marlin, Nemo's Dad in the Disney film Finding Nemo discovering the lovely light he has been following is luring him into the jaws of a fierce angler fish, he exclaims, "Good feeling's gone."
Good feeling left The Netherlands horribly yesterday as the innocence, decorum and, perhaps, naïveté of the friendly Dutch came crashing horribly down, perhaps forever.
And that's the real shame of yesterday. Welcome to the 21st century Your Majesty, sorry the welcome had to be so rude.