Troy University student from Belgium reacts to terror attacks

Published: Mar. 23, 2016 at 3:52 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2016 at 3:52 AM CDT
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(Source: NBC News)
(Source: NBC News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

TROY, AL (WSFA) - For a Troy University student, the bombings in Brussels hit very close to home.

The Belgian native has growing concerns about terrorism as he watched upsetting scenes emerge from his country in the wake of the deadly attacks making headlines around the world.

Maarten Wille knew something was wrong as soon as he woke up and glanced at his phone.

"I saw a lot of messages and people from Troy asking me if I saw what was going on and if my family is alright," he said.

Wille, an exchange student from Belgium studying at Troy University to become a sports psychologist, quickly pulled up online reports and learned that the airport and metro station he's traveled through many times in the past in Brussels were targeted by terrorists with tragic results.

"I didn't believe it because it's so close to where I live. There were friends this morning over there, my family travels around so there were no words for it," he said. "After the attacks in France, I assumed this would happen. Now it has."

He immediately called his father who works in Brussels.

"All my friends and family are ok but of course, there are all the wounded and dead people," he said.

Wille, like many, remains riveted to the news and any updates.

"The whole of Belgium is terror level 4 so they have to stay inside and there are no trains, no buses. Everyone is talking about that and everyone is looking at the news. There are live reports every minute because there are still people inside under the rubble and maybe some who are still living," he added.

He says heartache for his country comes in the midst of mounting fears.

"Where is this world going to? The attacks could happen anywhere and I'm scared that they could be worse and worse every time everywhere," he said.

He offered condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and those who were injured. He will be making his way home to Belgium when he completes his last semester.

Samantha Kitchens, a Pike Road teacher, was traveling in Europe and was set to leave Rotterdam in the Netherlands and arrive in Brussels Tuesday morning. A friend was not able to go with her and she was anxious about traveling alone. She decided not to make the trip and opted to spend the day in Rotterdam.

When she started receiving concerned phone calls and text messages from friends and learned about the bombings, she immediately notified her family and fiance.

"I thank the Lord that I didn't go because I could have been injured, or possibly even stuck there for a few days since trains were immediately canceled," she said. "As for being in Rotterdam, security was on high alert since we are so close to Belgium! The metro had more security around and so did the market that I went to. I told my friend that I am going to keep my train tickets so that I can remember what a terrible day it was and so that I could also be thankful that I didn't go!"

Meanwhile, Governor Robert Bentley also spoke out about the attacks Tuesday, calling the news coming out of Brussels "tragic."

"My thoughts and prayers go to the families of those injured or killed in the bombings," he said in a statement. "The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and its Fusion Center are in regular contact with federal partners in the intelligence community. There are no known imminent threats to Alabama, but ALEA will stay in close contact with its federal partners."

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