Brussels attacks too close for comfort for local teens in Europe

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Kenmore West High School senior Kole Marquardt boarded a plane at Buffalo Niagara International Airport Wednesday morning for a family trip, only one day after a harrowing return trip from Europe, as the attacks in Brussels unfolded. Just days before, he and other local students were in Belgium, as part of a ten-day school exchange trip.

Marquardt, 17, was at the airport in Paris, wrapping up that trip, when the blasts erupted at the airport in Brussels, just a couple hundred miles away. “I was definitely wondering what’s going to happen. If we’re going to get stuck here,” Marquardt told News 4 before heading through security Wednesday morning.

Kole texted his parents when the news started coming out about the attacks in Brussels which have left at least 30 people dead.

His parents, Todd Marquardt and Patty Kole Marquardt, say their biggest worry when they got the text from Kole was not so much when their son would get home, but that he would get home safely.

“It kind of just is surreal,” Todd said. “A scenario, you read it on the news, but when you have a family member there, it hits home a little more.”

“Our hearts just started racing,” Patty recalled. “We went downstairs, turned on CNN, started watching it together. Couldn’t believe what we were listening to and what we were seeing, and we were just praying that he was going to be okay.”

Patty and Todd say it was hard not imagine the worst, knowing their son was at another large international airport, which could be another potential target, in France, which is still healing from a terrorist attack only months ago. Kole even visited the Bataclan and memorial sites connected to those attacks while he was in Paris.

“With the extremists, everything that happened in Paris this summer, I just was afraid the same thing was going to be targeted for there,” Patty said.

And, just days before the attacks in Brussels, Kole and his classmates were touring in Belgium. Kole says it’s unnerving how close they came to being there at the wrong time.

“It’s a beautiful place. It’s somewhere you would never guess something like this would happen. But you just never know what’s going to happen now, I guess,” he said.

Even so, the Marquardts say they will not change their travel plans. “I think the airport, the TSA, everybody will keep us safe,” Kole said.

“Always be on guard, that’s one thing that we really preach, but I don’t have any fear for travel,” agreed his mother, Patty.

Still, in the wake of the attacks in Brussels, police across the world are stepping up their presence at airports, and the State Department has issued a travel alert for Europe. That will remain in effect through mid-June.

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