Compared to most means of travel, flying is considered one of the safest. After all, more than 3 million people worldwide safely fly on commercial airliners every day. On March 21, however, it was the airport that was unsafe for travelers in Brussels, leaving 31 people dead and 230 people injured.
Arizona residents Andrew and Denise Brandt were there when it happened and thankfully lived to tell the tale of the terrifying terrorist attacks. In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the Brandts recounted the horror, shock, and luck the couple feels after surviving the bloodbath.
The couple landed in Brussels on Tuesday morning. Denise works for an aid agency in Liberia, and they were waiting for their connecting flight. Before their arrival, they had traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend a conference.
As they waited, the Arizona residents shopped around in a duty-free store in Terminal B. But just as they were leaving, they heart a sound that Denise described as a “lion’s roar.”
“If you have ever been near a lion roaring, every hair on your body stands up,” Denise, 41, tells PEOPLE.
She adds, “We heard it and we felt the shock wave come through us and we looked at each other and we both knew it was an explosion. The floor shook. I just remember this kind of shock wave coming over me. You could just feel it throughout your body.”
From there, things happened quickly.
The Brandts acted fast, moving away from where they thought they heard the blast as quickly as possible.
“We saw people running toward us, away from where the explosions had occurred,” Denise said.
Denise has worked in Afghanistan and has been in “similar situations — sometimes worse” and was able to remain calm and focused.
The Brandts emerged from the terminal with thousands of other passengers and joined thousands more standing outside who had no idea what was happening.
After boarding a bus that took them to a stadium, where they registered their names and contacted loved ones, they hopped on a free train and took refuge in a hotel.
“This is abhorrent,” Denise said of the incident. “I’m sorry for the state of the world.”