During the Brussels attacks, Doctor Laura Billiet was dropping off her friend at the Brussels Airport. When she heard the first bomb go off, she didn’t think much of it – it didn’t seem real, and it seemed small and far away, but something about it made her stand up and look in the direction of the sound. She saw clouds of dust and broken glass.
“It was very surreal. It was not that loud of a sound. At first, I wasn’t concerned and then I thought, ‘wait that doesn’t make sense, why would I hear that?’ When I turned around I saw glass and dust billowing out, I said ‘That was a bomb,'” said Laura Harper, Doctor Billiet’s friend who was set to board a flight from Brussels, Tuesday morning.
— Sophia Rosenbaum (@sophrosenba) March 23, 2016
They didn’t know what had happened, but when Harper said “That was a bomb,” both women got out of the car and jogged to a nearby police checkpoint at the Brussels airport. Before long though, the wounded started to filter in, clutching bloodied limbs, stumbling, dazed, covered in dust and blood. Brussels had been attacked.
“She said, ‘it’s another bomb, let’s get out and run,’ we got out of the car and started running,” Billiet told ABC News, recalling the day of the Brussels bombings.
The Brussels attacks were coordinated by at least three attackers, two of whom were brothers, and one of the Brussels bombers was involved in November’s deadly Paris attacks – he made the bombs. It was his bombs they heard go off Tuesday morning in Brussels, which caused the horrific injuries Harper and Billiet saw in Brussels that day.
The police left to investigate just after Doctor Billiet and Harper arrived, and almost immediately afterward the walking wounded flooded the Brussels police station. “Wave after wave,” described ABC News, came into the police station, looking for help, looking for answers, or just stumbling blindly, not fully aware of what had just happened.
“She started to triage, she said ‘there’s people hurt, I’m going to help these people,'” Harper said of Doctor Billiet, as she started to examine the wounded, treating them in order of the severity of their injuries, administering emergency care with what little supplies she had on hand.
— ABC News (@ABC) March 23, 2016
“It still felt unsafe, we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, then we started seeing children coming in who were injured. We started working on, trying to help people, and we didn’t have a lot of things to work with,” Doctor Billiet said, describing the horrific scene at the Zaventem airport in Brussels.
Harper recalled that she had trouble with the nature of the injuries at first. They were so severe – shrapnel wounds, singed hair, burns, injuries common among the Brussels victims – that she became nauseous from fear and adrenaline, but she fought through it and asked her friend, Doctor Billiet, what she could to do help. Harper, a mother visiting Brussels, bit back her own fear to help the children who were present, many of whom had been separated from their parents during the brutal Brussels attacks. She thought of her own daughters, and when she saw a pair of girls screaming that they’d lost their parents, one of whom was going into shock, she knelt down and offered what help she could.
“I think those girls needed someone with them, and there wasn’t anyone available to speak their language. She really did a good service and thank God because there were so many people that needed things and so little that we had to give them,” Doctor Billiet said of Harper and the wounded children of the Brussels airport.
[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]