UT student in Belgium, Lenoir City business owner talk about attacks in Brussels
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Terrorist attacks Tuesday morning in Belgium have hit home for a few East Tennesseans, including some that are studying abroad.
At 8 a.m. the Zaventem airport in Brussels was hit with two explosions.
Another explosion hit the Maelbeek metro station at 9:11 a.m. local. So far, there have been 34 people reported dead and hundreds reported injured.
Junsung Park is one of many students currently on work study programs in Belgium this semester. Park arrived in Belgium in the beginning of February and plans to be there through the end of July. He is currently in Leuven, Belgium which is about a 25 minute train ride to Brussels.
“I was actually in class when I heard about the explosions. One of my friends put out a message about the explosions,” said Park. “ The fact that I was in class so near the event still hasn't really sunk in yet.”
Park said that the program that he is in currently has two other students from the United States, but he is the only UT student.
“The Paris attack terrorists were arrested just a few weeks before I came over here,” said Parks. “That was a little bit troubling at first but for the most part I feel pretty safe where I am right now.”
Parks said that his program has two weeks off for Easter vacation, in which him and many other students that he knows were planning on going home to the United States, but after the events of today he says that he might reevaluate that trip.
“After the Paris attacks we have had more security here,” said Parks.”You can see down the street from where I am, military workers with guns patrolling the streets, and I think that it will have to be like that for a while longer, after today.”
Jan Van Geyt owns a local Belgium Bistro in Lenoir City. Van Geyt is originally from Merchtem, Belgium about eight miles from the Brussels airport. He says that he has not been home in over three years, but is planning a trip back this year.
Le Noir is a small Belgium Bistro that has a mix of authentic Belgium food and drinks with a taste of American food as well. Every Saturday night, Le Noir hosts live entertainment that includes Belgium singers and entertainers.
“My girlfriend told me when I woke up that something happened in Belgium, and I didn't think much of it at first, then I turned on the TV and learned the severity of the situation,” said Van Geyt.
Van Geyt left Belgium 26 years ago, still has family that lives in Belgium. His niece's school was on lock down when news of the attacks broke. His parents, understandably on edge finally made contact this morning.
“Times have changed so much,” said Van Geyt. "When I lived there 26 years ago in a small town in Belgium, it was a very peaceful place with no crime. You could leave your door open and not worry about much, and you can't do that anymore.”
Both Parks and Van Geyt are just hoping the violence will stop.