BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (March 23, 2016) — Catherine Knarr and two other Covenanters might have been in one of the terminals at Zaventem airport when the bombs exploded had their plane not been late, she said.
They were to meet up with James Fischer, the economic development director for Paul Carlson Partnership, who already was in the airport. Though he was not at the site of the explosions, terrified people who had been near the blasts, some with debris on their clothes, ran past him to escape the area.
“I am shocked that this happened to us and mourn for those who lost a loved one or witnessed the violence,” said Knarr, Covenant Kids Congo project manager.
The others traveling with them are Donn Engebretson, ECC director for global advancement and Covenant Kids Congo, and Greg Krieger, pastor of Rock Harbor Covenant Church in Rocklin, California.
Engebretson, Knarr, and Krieger are representing Covenant Kids Congo, which was hosting a vision trip. Fischer was traveling to Karawa, where work on transmission lines from the Zulu dam to the hospital were being laid. Engineers traveling there went through the Paris airport.
The group spent the night sleeping on cots at a makeshift Red Cross shelter set up at a nearby music hall. Exhausted by the emotional day, the team was able to sleep said Krieger.
Krieger was on the plane with Knarr and Engebretson. “We spent an hour on the tarmac and were then escorted from the plane far from the terminal to buses,” he said. Everyone was then taken to a nearby hangar.
“Over five hours there felt like 15 on the cold floor,” Krieger said. They were given blankets and some food and water.
Krieger said there were more than 1,500 people in the hangar. Several hundred were locals who were to be released when it was safe. Three hundred people, mostly children and elderly, were taken to a nearby military base.
The rest were transported to the shelter. “People here are sticking together and helping each other charge phones,” Knarr said. “We have talked to people from so many countries—Brazil, Rwanda, Norway, Poland, Senegal, Hong Kong.”
“We were taken care of very well under the circumstances,” Engebretson said. “We have been well fed and, while sleeping in a room with 500-plus new friends would not necessarily be a first choice, we all are much more rested and grateful for this care.”
Engebretson said the four will stay with Covenant missionaries/pastors Barb and Steve Swanson tonight. They hope to be able to fly to Congo on Thursday.