BOSTON (CBS) –Three Quinnipiac University students from Massachusetts were forced to run for safety after bombs went off near them inside a Brussels airport.
Cate Duffy, Lauren Cleary and Monica Hall, all three from Massachusetts, are studying abroad in Ireland and had traveled to Brussels on their spring break.
The students had spent several days in Brussels and were at the airport preparing to check in for a flight to London.
They had only been in the airport for about 10 minutes when they heard an explosion.
"We were waiting to get our tickets, and we heard one of the bombs go off but we didn't see it and didn't realize what was going on. Before we could even process it, the second one went off right in front of us," said Duffy, a Natick resident. "It was huge, it was like a fire explosion. It shook the floor. The ceiling started falling. At that point everyone started running, screaming."
After the second bomb went off, the three girls stayed together, but ran out of the airport.
"I had my bag with me for probably 5 or 10 seconds of the commotion," said Hall, a Sutton native. "Then I tried to start picking up speed and running, and I realized that just wouldn't work and my bags just weren't important enough to get me killed. So I just dropped them, and we ran out of there as fast as I could."
As the chaos unfolded, the students called their parents to alert them what had happened. The calls came in at about 4 a.m. Massachusetts time.
"Our parents kept really calm in the situation, which was really helpful," said Cleary, who said the sound of sirens still rings throughout the city.
"My wife answered the phone and she started screaming," Lauren's father Richard Cleary said.
After running some distance from the airport, the three girls flagged down a man who was driving with his young son.
The driver spoke to the girls, and agreed to take them to the U.S. Embassy.
"He stopped his car and I said 'Please, please, please, just take us anywhere that's not near the airport. We're so desperate, we really don't want to be here. Just anywhere safer then here,'" Cleary, an Abington resident, recalls saying to the man.
The students were interviewed by the FBI while at the embassy.
After the trio was interviewed, an embassy employee volunteered to let the girls stay at his home.
"That's very sweet," Richard Cleary said. "He didn't have to do that and he did it. And the guy that drove them there too."
The students do not yet know how long they will stay in Brussels or what method of transportation they'll be able to use to return to Ireland.
Cate Duffy's mother says the girls vow to never let terrorism win. "She tells us she's planning on continuing her trip because she said if she doesn't, they win," Judy Duffy said.
Belgian officials have said at least 36 people were killed in what have been declared "terrorist attacks" at the airport and a nearby subway system.
Though no threat has been made against the United States, security has been increased in Massachusetts. Extra officers are on patrol around Logan Airport and MBTA stations.
for more features.