Stephanie and Justin Shults, an American couple living in Brussels who had been missing since the attacks in the Belgian capital, were declared dead on Saturday, according to members of Justin Shults’s family.
“We found out today that cowards took my brother’s life,” Shults’s brother, Levi Sutton, posted on his Twitter profile. In another posting, he wrote: “The world lost two amazing people today. It’s not fair.”
Relatives and friends of Justin Shults also posted memorials and notices of the couple’s death on his mother, Sheila Shell’s Facebook page.
The Shultses never planned on living abroad, but when the chance to move to Brussels fell in their lap two years ago, they decided to embrace the spirit of adventure and go.
On Tuesday morning, the pair were at the airport, dropping off Stephanie’s mother, Carolyn Moore, to catch a flight home to Kentucky after a week’s visit. They parked the car, walked her into the terminal to get her boarding pass, said goodbye and walked away, according to Moore’s sister and Stephanie’s aunt, Betty Gragg Newsom. Then the first blasts of coordinated terrorist attacks in Brussels by the Islamic State ripped through the airport’s departure hall.
The couple’s car was found, Sutton posted on Twitter Saturday, but the family continued to wait without word about the couple, as they had for several days.
There was much the family didn’t know about what the Shults couple did after they parted ways with Moore. If they exited the airport to retrieve their car, they might have been far enough from the explosions to be injured but alive. If they opted instead to wait and watch Moore’s flight take off, they could have been much closer to the deadly blasts.
Newsom wasn’t sure where Moore was during the explosions, save that she had not yet gone through airport security. But the force of the blasts knocked Moore off her feet and left her with strange, dusty substances in her hair and without hearing in one ear, Newsom said.
Moore was taken to a nearby hotel, and was later joined in Brussels by her husband, Geary Moore. Shell, Justin’s mother, also traveled to the Belgian capital, to find out what happened to the couple.
On Friday morning, State Department officials said that at least two Americans had been confirmed dead in the blasts without listing their identities — raising speculation that Stephanie and Justin, the only American citizens to have been identified in the news media, might be among the deceased. But as the day wore on, it appeared that the announcement also could be referring to Alexander Pinczowski, 29, and Sascha Pinczowski, 28, Dutch nationals who lived in New York.
But all involved had already ridden out a heartbreaking moment of dashed hope, after some of Justin’s family reported receiving information that the couple had been found alive.
SOURCE: Karoun Demirjian
The Washington Post