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Right Place, Wrong Time

C. S. Teitelbaum

I narrowly escaped death at this year’s Brussels airport attack on March 22. I then filmed the first seconds. My video was viewed by millions

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock

P inchos Kopperstein, 24, Antwerp, Belgium

Right Place Wrong Time
 

The moment I became a household name

I narrowly escaped death at this year’s Brussels airport attack on March 22. I then filmed the first seconds after the attack, unwittingly producing what would be the only real-time video of “the minute after.” My video was broadcast by practically every international media outlet and was viewed by millions.

On that day, I had dropped off two Israeli Belzer brothers-in-law and their families at the airport and then waited for my pick-up passenger who was delayed at customs in arrivals. With time to spare, I guided one of my drop-off passengers to the facilities and waited outside to direct him back to his family — they’d gone upstairs to check in.

Meanwhile, to my fortune, my pick-up passenger called to tell me he was ready sooner than expected. For some reason, the customs agent had singled him out to jump the queue. He told me that when another person in the queue, a non-Jew, thought he was pointing to him and approached, the agent sent him back with a rigid finger, and said, “No, not you. You!” pointing at the Yid.

Hashem clearly wanted me out of that departures building. Out I went, and a minute later, there was a loud boom. According to news reports, the suicide bomber detonated himself right near the facilities where I had been waiting before getting the call from my pickup passenger. Unfortunately, the two brothers-in-law I had dropped off were badly injured.

As an Israeli, I instantly recognized the explosion as a terror attack; sadly, I’ve become toughened enough that they no longer faze me as much as they used to. From my safe position in the car park, together with my passenger — who was stunned at the miracle he’d just been the shaliach for — I filmed the first few seconds: The glass facade shattering and pouring down like water, the ensuing silence, followed by mayhem, and then hundreds of people dropping their luggage and spilling out of the smoking building without looking back.

Ironically, more than my own brush with death, it was the film that made me famous.

In the beginning

I was your typical long-distance driver for hire, working long hours shuttling Antwerp residents and visitors to airports, vacations, and mekomos hakedoshim around Europe.

 

How my life changed

In the short term, it was hectic: I was inundated with calls from media outlets who wanted permission to use the film. Already on my drive home — even before the attack was on Belgian news — I got a call from an Israeli chareidi news outlet that had seen my film and wanted to use it. Then the requests didn’t stop. They poured in from Reuters, CNN, Sky News, BBC, and even Al Jazeera (I actually denied them permission, but that was blatantly flouted), as well as tens of smaller outlets.

As I said, I’m an Israeli and I’m used to this. Of course I’m grateful Hashem spared me — I made a kiddush in shul that Shabbos — but I moved straight on.

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