MIAMI (CBSMiami) – While terrorist bombs sent the airport in Brussels into chaos, Belgian native and Coral Gables resident Denis Gustin, like most South Floridians, was fast asleep. He had no reason to worry about whether his mother Danielle had made her flight from Brussels to Miami International Airport.
“I woke up at 6 a.m. and I see nine missed calls from my brother,” Gustin told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
“He texted me there’s been a bombing at Brussels airport. ‘I want to know if you heard from mom.’”
Thankfully, his mother texted him at 7:39 a.m. Belgian time – roughly 20 minutes before the attack.
The text read in part, “I’m sitting on the plane. We are taking off in ten minutes. I’m looking forward to seeing you all. Kiss. Mom.”
Gustin also breathed a sigh of relief when he checked online and found his mother’s flight had taken off around the same time the bombs went off.
“She actually left the gate at 7:51 and took off at 8:04 which I guess is seconds or maybe a minute before this happened,” he said.
Despite his family’s luck, he feels grief for the victims.
“A big relief when I see her, but I’m also going to think of all these people dead,” he said.
Since the news broke, Honorary Consul of Belgium in South Florida Manuel Molina has been on the phone with Belgians living stateside.
“It’s some kind of solidarity among us, no? The Belgians who are living here are living here in the same position as me, shock and sadness mostly,” he told Zea.
Molina says he is planning an event to bring South-Florida based Belgians together, this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Torch of Friendship in Downtown Miami.
“Our motto is ‘Make Us Stronger,’ so now more than ever it’s very important to show that also. And I think those people who commit this kind of atrocities will not prevail,” he said.
Molina along with countless others are relying in part on social media, including Facebook’s safety alerts, to ensure friends have marked themselves safe.
All of Gustin’s loved ones are accounted for, but he remains nervous about the potential for this kind of attack to happen again.
“It was maximum alert state in Belgium and this still happened,” he said.
Gustin and anyone else desiring to call loved ones in Belgium will be able to do so for free through many companies.
AT&T announced it will credit any of its customers, both on cell phones and landlines, who text or call Belgium from Tuesday through next Monday.
Other carriers also offering free service, include Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile. Contact your provider for details.
With an estimated 5,000 Belgians in Florida, at least 1,500 of whom live in South Florida, technology is more than useful for them during this time – it is essential.