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University of Missouri students, program director safe following terrorist attacks in Brussels

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The terrorist attacks were on another continent, but the impact of the violence in Brussels on Tuesday hit close to home. Sixteen University of Missouri journalism students and a professor remain trapped in the city, all part of a study abroad program, and all are safe.

“It’s tense; this city has just had its worst terrorist attack, as far as I know, in its history,” said Gareth Harding, the Director of the Missouri School of Journalism Brussels Program, “Thirty people, at least, are dead, and scores are injured.”

Harding spoke to FOX 4's Melissa Stern during a Skype interview on Tuesday.

“It`s an appalling tragedy, and loss of innocent lives,” Harding said. “Those people went about their daily business of going to work at 8:30 in the morning, on a packed metro, they were blown up, so I think everyone is shocked.”

Harding is permanently based in Brussels, and has lived there for 22 years.

“I’m permanently here for the Missouri students who come out three times a year,” Harding said.

He says most of his students spend their time at internships.

“This morning, many of them were on their way to work when the blasts went off,” Harding added.

“If I take the metro to work, I go through the Maelbeek, which is the station it occurred at,” said 21-year-old student Janie Booth, who was asleep when the attacks happened. “My area of the city is probably about a 25 minute walking distance from where the explosion at the metro station took place.”

Booth is a MU journalism major interning at the EU Reporter, and was told not to go in on Tuesday.

“We`re not supposed to leave our apartment, we were instructed early this morning to try and stay inside,” Booth added.

“I think they`re acting incredibly maturely, there`s deep sadness amongst them,” said Harding. “They`re shocked, obviously, that these sorts of things can happen around the corner from where they live and work.”

“It`s kind of freaky the fact that on Facebook I was given the notification to mark whether I was safe,” Booth said.

Booth says you don’t really expect something like this to happen to you.

“It`s always scary to know that where you`re living may not necessarily be safe... and there are explosions going off down the street from you,” she said.

Booth says she's been in Belgium since early January and will be there until April 30th.

Harding says there is no indication that there is any student --or parent -- who wants their trip to be cut short at this point. FOX 4 spoke with representatives from the University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Park University, and all said they currently have no students in Brussels.