Manitobans return home after close call in Brussels airport
A loud cheer rang out at the Richardson International Airport Thursday morning as Mike Sullivant and Benjamin Reimer came down the arrivals escalator.
"My hands are shaking, my knees are shaking, It's just good to be home,” said Reimer, after hugging his wife and young family.
“It was a good feeling to finally have those wheels touch the tarmac here in Winnipeg," said Sullivant.
The two were welcomed home by dozens of loved ones, eager to ask them about their experience in Brussels.
Reimer and Sullivant were on their way home from Liberia, and had a connection in the Belgian city on their way home to Manitoba. They live in the Morden-Winkler area.
"Our plane was delayed one day from Liberia coming back,” said Sullivant, “so they sent us another plane, it picked us up and then we were in the terminal when the bombings happened."
Even though they were in the terminal, neither one said they heard or saw the blast because they were on the other side of security.
"A Brussels airport employee came to our area and said, 'emergency everybody go to the end of the terminal, everybody go to the end of the terminal'," said Reimer. “ Once we go there, that's when I pulled out my phone and I right away googled to see what was happening and found out there was reports of some bombs being found."
Along with hundreds of other travelers, Reimer said the two were asked to leave everything and wait on the tarmac.
"They were instructing us not to take any of our luggage with us because they had found explosives and they had found ammunition inside so they didn’t want us to potentially take anything like that outside where everyone was gathering."
That’s when the two caught a glimpse of the aftermath of the attack, in an area they had recently passed through.
"When they evacuated us from the terminal to the tarmac, then we passed by, just probably within 100 yards of where the initial explosions took place," said Sullivant.
The two describe their emotions as scattered at that point.
"You see a lot of panicked people, you know? You’re wondering because you're just getting snap details of things and so you just pretty much go with the flow,” said Sullivant. “Then it's afterwards when the emotional part sinks in as to what really is happening and how fortunate you are to no be where so many others were."
"There was so much running through my mind at that time,” said Reimer, “I wasn't really scared for myself , I wasn't afraid to meet the Lord at that point in time. The only fear really I had was I knew I had my young family back home here that were waiting for daddy to come home."
Sullivant said he was very impressed by how the local community rallied around the stranded passengers.
"Ben and I got to go to a young couple’s house. They put us up for the night, fed us and it was very hospitable for us."
The next day they were bussed to a train terminal, and eventually flew home out of Paris.
Sullivant’s wife, Brenda, was the first to hug her husband as he set foot on home soil.
"I feel great relief, gratefulness. I am really thankful that he was safe,” she said. “It's wonderful to have him back, knowing that we have a little longer to be with each other so we'll treasure each day a little more."