KSU student feels blessed to return from Belgium

Posted at 5:10 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 17:10:18-04

Nineteen Kent State University business students and two faculty members have returned from Belgium after being in the European country during a pair of terrorist attacks last week.

The group was touring the National Bank of Belgium when bombs exploded at the airport and a metro station.

Alana Biles, 19, a KSU junior, said the students were a little more than one mile from the metro at the time of the attacks.

The students had used that same train station the day before the bombings and their agenda called for an afternoon trip on the metro on the same day of the explosions.

"I was just thankful, very very thankful that we weren't there at the same time and definitely know that we were blessed to not be there," Biles said.

Don Williams, a Kent State professor of economics, led the students on the trip as part of a course on European economic issues.

"We were trying to be as safe as we could be. There was certainly some fear, especially with all the uncertainty," Williams said.

During the bank tour, a security guard interrupted and told the tour guide what was happening, but at first, the students only knew there had been an attack.

"Everyone was a little scared and nervous because we were like sitting there learning about the bank and everyone just kind of wants to know what's going on," Biles said.

After answering a few more bank questions, the tour guide explained to the group about the terrorism at the airport and metro.

The students headed back to their hotel while police swarmed Brussels.

"There were helicopters because they were obviously searching. I know they were doing door-to-door searches while we were there," Williams said.

It was difficult for the students to call home because cell phone service was jammed. However, many of them communicated with their loved ones by text.

Several hours later, a lockdown was lifted and the Kent State contingent boarded a bus to continue their trip to Luxembourg, where Biles flew home at the urging of her parents.

"They said, 'I think that it's just time that you come home,'" Biles said.

Others remained with the group and also journeyed to France before flying home earlier this week.

Both Biles and Williams said the terrorism reminded them of the need to be vigilant while traveling, but they won't let the scary ordeal keep them from returning overseas in the future.

"It can happen anywhere so you can't just mark off the whole world and say you're never gonna travel again, Biles said.