Tampa woman survived Brussels attack

Posted at 11:23 PM, Mar 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 07:55:07-04

Whitney Ndata has been through the Brussels airport many times before.  But despite her frequent flyer status, she's still a nervous traveler.

"My parents had advised me for once, don't go check in.  Visit the airport.  It's huge.  There's stores everywhere.  Stop.  Enjoy it," Ndata said.

But her gut said to keep going, and get her ticket.  She was heading back toward the shops when she stopped for breakfast.

"I was sitting down, drinking coffee, then boom," said Ndata.

The noise was alarming.  But at first, she shrugged it off.

"Next thing you know there's this group of teenagers just running, screaming and crying, and I'm thinking, 'Oh they missed their flight.  Like, you can just get another one.  It's no big deal.'  Ten seconds later these police officers just jump in and they're like, 'Get out of here!  There's been an explosion! Get up!  Get to the other side of the airport!'" Ndata said.

In the chaos, she grabbed her phone, and called home.

"The only thing i told her on the phone before i got cut off was, 'Mom, there's been an explosion in the airport.  I'm running.'  That's all she heard," said Ndata.

What followed was panic and fear.

"I was praying to God, and I was like, 'I don't want to die.  But if it's my time, then I'm ready.  Just take care of my mom.  Because...I'm an only child and i know she's not going to make it because we're really close,'" Ndata said.

Everyone inside the airport was evacuated and stood outside in the cold for hours before buses came taking them to a nearby warehouse.  They were held there a few more hours, before being taken to a military camp 30 minutes away.  Ndata says when they arrived there, is when the magnitude of what happened really hit.

"The Red Cross is here.  This is real.  This is bad news.  They're asking us to register our name to see who is alive," she said.

She didn't get to talk to her mom again until late Tuesday night, more than 12 hours after the attack.  She stayed in this military camp two days before finally getting a ride to the train station from a family friend.  She was able to catch a train to Paris, then finally getting a flight back to Tampa from there on Saturday night.

"I just want people to know to just be grateful.  Just hold your family, loved ones close and be grateful you're here," she said.

Ndata admits she is scared to travel or be in an airport right now.  But she knows ultimately, she will need to face her fears and continue living her life, otherwise, she believes the terrorists win.