A charity boss has spoken of her admiration for the people of Brussels after being trapped just metres from the Metro station where a devastating bomb hit.
The Belgian city was plunged into chaos on Tuesday after two bombs went off at the airport before a third at Maalbeek Metro Station - just metres from the hotel where Monica Fletcher was staying.
The OBE holder and chief executive of Education for Health, extended her trip to hold a meeting with colleague Jeremy Bray on Tuesday - a decision which left her at the centre of the panic.
But she said despite watching the city go into lock down and her hotel turned into an emergency medical centre, it was not until returning to Warwick that everything seemed real.
She told the Courier: “It is only when you get home that you look back, that you really realise as it was so surreal.
“We knew about awful airport attacks that morning but never thought there might be more, or so close. It was a terrifying place to be on that first day, and so surreal to be in the middle of all this trauma and chaos. There was a ripple effect after that. It was just as chaotic and terrible as you imagine a situation like that would be. It almost wasn’t real. We put the news on and realised, that is us - we are right there. To see all that happening just outside was horrifying. But we were cocooned and almost not a part of it.”
It was a very scary place to be and security was so tight at the hotel as nobody knew if there would be another hitMonica Fletcher
Mrs Fletcher, who lives in Church Street, Warwick, said hotel staff spoke of feeling the building “shudder” when the bomb exploded, and an instant realisation of what had happened.
“We heard the sirens and it was instant, ambulances and people rushing in panic. Then someone said it was the Metro.
“It was a very scary place to be and security was so tight at the hotel as nobody knew if there would be another hit.”
The foyer of the Thon Hotel Eu hotel was turned into an emergency aid centre. The building was protected by armed guards and guests were unable to leave for 48 hours following the fatal blast.
At least 30 people were killed in the terror attacks and the city continues to mourn.
But the sense of solidarity is something that Mrs Fletcher said will not be forgotten.
“It was a very scary time, but incredible how people dealt with it,” she said. “Emergency services were amazing.
“People think I am mad but we heard the commotion during our meeting, and for a while we carried on. It was just what we did, everybody had this sense of carry on with normality. I hope I never see anything like that again but it was incredible to see how the city reacted and how people stood strong.
“It was on the second day that there was a national outpouring of grief, it was very sombre after the panic.
“People just had to pick themselves up and were so stoic, it was clear on the streets that they were not going to let this beat them and no matter how terrifying it was, I am honoured in a way to have been a part of that solidarity.”
Mr Bray, who also lives in Warwick, echoed what was said by his colleague after two terrifying days of uncertainty - and said he was humbled by how the city coped.
“It was impressive how, being in the middle of all of this crisis the city, its emergency services and residents all coped so efficiently.
“It is very moving that even in such a terrible and traumatic time people pulled together.
“We were shielded from the worst of it in the hotel and it was all a very surreal few days.”