Local News

Local survivor of Brussels bombing: 'Why was I the lucky guy?'

Posted March 22

— Triangle businessman Marc Noel was preparing to fly home from Belgium Tuesday morning when two explosions rocked the Brussels airport.

At least 31 people were killed and dozens more were wounded when bombs went off in the airport and on a subway train in the Belgian capital, authorities said. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Noel, a Belgium native who founded plastics manufacturer Nomaco and some affiliated companies in Zebulon, said he was buying a magazine in an airport shop while waiting for his flight to Atlanta when the first bomb went off nearby.

“I typically go to another (shop) to buy my magazines, but I decided to go to this one, and that’s probably what saved my life,” Noel told WRAL News in a telephone interview.

“Fortunately, we were protected in the store by a wall between the explosion and us,” he said. “Had I been on the other side of the wall where I was supposed to be, then who knows?”

Noel said he and another customer in the shop dove for cover under the counter near the cash register as the ceiling collapsed. A short time later, he said, he heard another explosion farther away in the airport.

Thinking he wouldn’t make it out alive, he quickly texted his wife, Cecile, to tell her and their children and grandchildren goodbye.

“It was in French, but translated, (it said) that I love them all and that this might be the way I go,” he said.

Survivors were hustled to a secure part of the airport and then to a remote area of the parking lots for safety. There, Noel was able to call his wife, who was asleep and hadn’t yet read his text message, that he was OK aside from inhaling some dust.

“Emotions, of course, were extremely high,” he said of his fellow survivors. “Most everyone was crying profusely.”

Police, firefighters and paramedics swarmed the airport to care for the injured and search for more bombs and evidence among the carnage.

“Unfortunately, I did see a number of pieces of clothing that were there that were bloody and children's socks that were lying there,” Noel said. “You had no choice but to see part of it.”

Noel then walked 3 or 4 miles to a nearby village to find someplace where he could get out of the 35-degree weather and begin working on finding another way home.

He credits his faith and possibly some divine intervention on behalf of his late parents for allowing him to escape for the “beginning of a second life.”

“As time goes by now, hour by hour, you retrace your actions and you ask yourself, ‘Why did I do (this)?’ ‘Why was I the lucky guy?’” he said. “It was as close as it gets.”

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