Buffalo teachers narrowly avoid terrorist attacks in Brussels

BRUSSELS (WIVB) — Two friends from Buffalo traveling abroad departed a subway in Brussels just minutes before an explosion ripped through the Belgian capital, marking the latest terrorist attack in Europe.

Daniel Palumbo and Dina Ferraraccio, who teach at the Charter School for Applied for Technologies, detailed the chaos that ensued after three explosions left dozens dead, crippling transit in the city. At 8:30 a.m., two explosions crippled the airport, and just an hour later, another explosion tore through a nearby metro station.

The friends took a set of flights on their trip to Belgium that saw them fly from Buffalo to Washington, D.C. and finally to Brussels. They say originally their flight was scheduled to depart slightly later, but they opted to arrive earlier, changing their flight.

When finally in Brussels, Palumbo and Ferraraccio took the subway system to get to their next destination, and just 15 minutes later, they heard of the explosions.

“We must have just missed, we more or less missed the subway explosion,” Ferraraccio said.

The devastating attacks, which killed at least 34 people, took a toll on the world and the nation immediately. The Buffalo natives say they felt the sadness rippling through the people with whom they spoke.

Palumbo said, “I don’t think it really sunk in for us until we were walking in the street, and a lady approached us, and she said, ‘No, the train is closed, the airport is closed.’ She broke down in tears. That was when it really sunk in.”

The woman left to cry in her car, the teachers said, emanating sadness and concern for her family and friends. As chaos ensued, military and police forces swarmed the city, virtually shutting down travel.

“It looks like they’re putting the proper protocols in place to make sure that everyone is safe,” Palumbo said of the response, noting it was reassuring to see security forces around every corner.

Looking back on their brush with terror, the teachers said they stand behind the people of Belgium, and are slowly realizing they narrowly escaped injury in a tragic, yet historic, event.

“This is part of history. I’m sort of humbled and honored to be part of the grieving with Belgium and just being a part of this and offering a sense of I guess just compassion for people,” Ferraraccio said.

Ferraraccio and Palumbo said they will wind up needing to cut their trip short, and will look to return to Buffalo when the airport is reopened.

“We have to let the authorities do everything they need to do to make everyone safe,” Palumbo said. “When the airport opens, we need to look at leaving then.”

Although they will return to Buffalo, they say Belgium needs the support of the entire world.

Palumbo said, “These people are hurting, and hurting pretty hard.”

*In an earlier version of this article, Daniel Palumbo and Dina Ferraraccio were identified as a couple. They have since made it known they are friends who teach together at the Charter School for Applied Technologies. 

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