When a bomb detonated at the Brussels Zaventem airport in 2016, Janet Winston-Young assumed she would be among the dozens of people killed. Yet, in the midst of the chaos, terror, and the very real possibility of dying, she says she felt complete peace.
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Janet was dropping off her husband Fred at the airport on March 22, 2016, when terrorists coordinated attacks at the airport as well as the Maelbeek metro station in Belgium's capital city. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed 32 civilians as well as three of the attackers, and injured more than 300 people.
"I was facing [the attacker]" Janet says about the moment a suicide bomber detonated the device. She and her husband were just four metres away from the attacker when the explosion occurred.
"Instantly I knew that it was a bomb," she says. "In fact, I was thrown back, I think on to somebody else who pushed me off of them with their legs." She says that push actually woke her up after what she describes as fainting. As she regained her bearings she heard a second explosion in the airport.
"Then I started to slip away again. And when I did I thought clearly to myself, 'I think I'm dying now. It's good.' Not that it's good to die, but I felt right then, you know that passage in the Bible that says, 'Even though I walk in the valley of death I fear no evil, You are with me.' It was something like that. I was at peace, I knew where I was going."
Thankfully, both Janet and Fred survived the attack. Looking back now, Janet says the journey has been a difficult and painful one, but also one that's been filled with the presence of Jesus. She describes it as "going through a window. It was very painful, and pieces of glass fly everywhere, and you're injured in the process, and all of the shock. But I feel today, the Lord has been with me in that journey, too. In the days, the weeks, the months, and I can see the years. It did take a while, and perhaps I'm in the journey still."
She says she doesn't see a before and after to life surrounding the attack but says instead that life goes on, albeit "with more depth and perhaps more fragile, but at the same time, really thankful that I've met the God of the Bible. He makes such a difference in my life today."
Janet came to faith in Jesus as a teenager, and she says that the only thing the attacks did in regards to her faith was served to strengthen it. "I saw how truly God's peace was with me, and how he sustained me throughout the journey of recovery." She points to 2 Chronicles 16:9 which says, "The Lord looks out over the whole earth. He gives strength to those who commit their lives completely to him."
She says she has experienced that strengthening in the midst of the attack and in the years since. That includes facing life-long injuries and multiple surgeries for both her and Fred.
Throughout her story, Janet points back to Scripture, a source of encouragement that has continued to push her forward in recovery and sharing her story of hope and faith with others. She has published a book in French sharing her story, called Paris-Bruxelles, au cœur des attentats (Paris-Brussels, at the heart of the attacks).