Vernon Taylor woke Tuesday morning in Belgium to a text from a teammate.
“Did you hear about the bombing?” his teammate wanted to know.
Taylor, a Cross High School graduate who plays professional basketball in Belgium, spent the rest of the day immersed in the news that shook Belgium and the world — terrorist bombings in Brussels killed at least 34 people and injured dozens of others.
“It happened about seven to 10 minutes away from us,” said Taylor, who plays for Kangoeroes Basket in Willebroek, just outside of the Belgian capital of Brussels. “People are shaken up, they are frightened. The government in Belgium has cut off all cellphone use, so people don’t really know if family members are safe. It’s crazy.”
Taylor, who graduated from Cross in 2006 and played college basketball at Spartanburg Methodist and Troy University, said he was able to make cellphone calls due to his wireless connection to the Internet. He posted a message on Facebook to let his family in Berkeley County know he is safe.
“I wanted to let everyone know I was fine,” he said. “I knew when it hit CNN, everybody would know what was going on and would be worried.”
Taylor said he has often been in the Brussels airport and subway system, where the bombings took place. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“The team we just played, from Antwerp, was in the airport while it was going on,” Taylor said. “They had just gotten on their plane when things started to happen.”
Taylor also has played in Finland, Greece and Bulgaria during his pro career, and said he never before really worried about a terrorist attack.
“No, I thought that was something that only happened on TV,” he said. “I thought ... that it could never really happen close to me. Now, it has me questioning whether I want to stay playing basketball in Europe right now.”
Taylor, a 6-3 guard, is averaging 18 points and five rebounds for Kangoeroes Basket this season, playing well enough that other Belgian teams have offered him contracts.
“My career in Europe, it was a struggle the first two or three years,” he said. “This season is the first time I’m really seeing my hard work pay off, and things have been going great. Other teams over here want to sign me, but I don’t know what I should do now. I really don’t know.”