Arizona couple feel blast, witness aftermath of Brussels bombing

Mar 22, 2016, 8:45 AM | Updated: 8:40 pm
Follow @KTAR923...
LISTEN: Denise Brandt, Arizonan who was at Brussels airport during terror attack

PHOENIX — An Arizona couple managed to escape the bombs that tore through a Belgian airport and subway early Tuesday morning.

Andrew and Denise Brandt, who lived in Gilbert up until last year, were at the Brussels airport catching a flight home to Liberia when the explosions rocked part of Zaventem Airport.

“I describe it as a lion roaring,” Denise Brandt said in an exclusive interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes. “When a lion roars, every hair on your body stands up.”

The couple, who married in the Valley last year and work for a health aid agency, Jhipego, said that the bomb blast felt like “a wave going through your body.”

At least 31 were killed in the blasts and 190 were injured. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying its extremists opened fire in the airport and “several of them” detonated suicide belts.

A third bomb was disabled by authorities.

Brandt, who taught at Arizona State University from 2013-2015, said the blast happened “too close” to them.

She said she learned what explosions felt like while living in Afghanistan for six years.

“It was very loud, but it’s also kind of muffled,” she said. “You could just feel this shockwave going through your body.”

Andrew Brandt told SkyNews he suspected immediately it was an attack. The couple were near a gift shop in a terminal that houses American Airlines.

Denise said Andrew wanted to run toward the explosions to help. He has worked in law enforcement.

Denise said she stopped Andrew because she was unsure if there was an active shooter or if the attackers had rigged a second bomb to kill first responders.

After the explosion, Denise said crowds of people began running in the direction she and her husband were walking. Though she was in a calmer part of the airport, she said there was a lot of confusion and others seemed oblivious to what was happening.

“I woke up a man who was sleeping, even after the calls for evacuation,” she said.

She said people were told to evacuate, but not told where they should go.

The two airport blasts, at least one of which was blamed on a suicide bomber, left behind a chaotic scene of splattered blood in the departure lounge as windows were blown out, ceilings collapsed and travelers streamed out of the smoky building.

Denise, who has flown through Brussels before, said she did not notice an unusual amount of security, despite European security officials bracing for an attack for weeks.

“We knew that it was on high alert, but I didn’t detect an increased presence at all,” she said.

While it took several hours for the magnitude of the situation to settle in, Denise said she felt safe in her hotel room. Officials put the city on lockdown as it searched for suspects.

“There’s no public transportation,” she said. “No one is moving around.”

While Denise has spent time in conflict areas, she said an attack is still a scary event.

“When you go to a conflict or post-conflict zone, you accept some amount of risk … but when you go to Brussels, or a Western European country, you don’t expect that.”

About an hour after the airport attack, another bomb exploded on a rush-hour subway train near the European Union headquarters. Terrified passengers had to evacuate through darkened tunnels to safety.

“We’re feeling very sad and very angry that this keeps happening,” Denise said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)...
SuElen Rivera

Arizona near-total abortion ban remains in effect after judge denies Planned Parenthood’s stay

The near-total abortion ban in Arizona will remain in effect after a judge denied Planned Parenthood's to pause the ruling.
19 hours ago
(AZ511 photo)...

Loop 303 reopens after rollover crash in Litchfield Park

Traffic was stalled on the Loop 303 in both directions after a crash blocked multiple lanes near the Glendale Avenue exit ramp.
19 hours ago
(AP File Photo)...

Woman arrested in Arizona with 36 kilograms of fentanyl pills

A woman was arrested in Arizona after approximately 36 kilograms of fentanyl were seized from the vehicle she was in during a traffic stop.
19 hours ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Kevin Stone

Here’s what Arizona parents need to know about applying for school vouchers

Now that Arizona’s school voucher expansion can move forward, officials are asking parents to be patient as they work through a backlog of applications.
19 hours ago
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)...

Downpours aside, monsoon season in Phoenix will finish below rainfall average

Some places got lots of rain, some places got less, but as monsoon season in Arizona pushes out its last sigh Friday, Phoenix will finish at just about average rainfall and cooler temperatures, weather experts said.
19 hours ago
(File Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)...

Man seriously burned after gasoline-filled grocery bags ignite Phoenix car fire

A man was seriously burned Thursday morning in Phoenix after plastic grocery bags filled with gasoline ignited, causing a vehicle fire, authorities said.
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Arizona couple feel blast, witness aftermath of Brussels bombing