London, where I live, was rocked by a suspected terrorist attack near Parliament yesterday. As of this morning, at least five people are dead and some 40 others are injured.
“The terrorists chose to strike at the heart of our capital city where all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech,” said U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. Attempts to defeat those values with violence, she said, are “doomed to failure.”
The attack took place exactly one year after the terrorist bombings in Brussels, where blasts at the Zaventem Airport and on the city’s metro killed 32 people and injured more than 300.
To mark the anniversary, CNN visited Nidhi Chaphekar, a flight attendant and mother whose bloodied, dazed image became the face of the attack in Belgium. She exemplifies how strength and resilience can emerge from chaos and destruction. I thought her story of survival would be fitting to share today.
Chaphekar witnessed the first blast in the Brussels airport as she prepared for a routine flight to Newark, N.J. She had flown in from her home city of Mumbai the previous day. As she tried to orient herself, a second bomb went off. “I landed on my legs and then I collapsed … that’s how I got a full cut behind my head,” she told CNN.
A soldier running to the scene helped Chaphekar to a plastic chair, where Georgian journalist Ketevan Kardava captured her in the blast’s immediate aftermath—her yellow uniform torn open exposing her bra and stomach, with dust and blood covering her face. The photograph landed on newspapers and news sites worldwide as journalists reported the attack.
When Chaphekar first saw the photo, she was struck by how defenseless she appeared. “As an air hostess, we being first aiders for others, I was feeling helpless at that moment,” she says. “It was a very awful scenario to accept.”
A year later, she is still recovering from her injuries—burns, a fractured foot, and metal embedded all over her body. She preaches a message of peace—”Our survival depends on each others’ survival”—and says she is taking the obstacles one at a time. More than anything, she wants to return to her job as a flight attendant. “It’s my passion,” she says. “[If] I’m medically fit, I would want to fly.”