Disclaimer: The details included in this story and in Mason Wells's book about his injuries and experiences may be graphic to some readers. Read at your own discretion.
The thought glanced across Mason Wells's mind as he took in the destruction all around him. Black smoke permeated the air, creating the ethereal illusion he was standing alone among the wreckage.
Then the smoke parted. He was not alone. Around him lay the crumpled, blackened forms of other victims.
Wells's body quickly dragged him into reality, excruciating pain flaring to full intensity while adrenaline flooded his veins, letting him know with an absolute clarity he was still alive.
It was March 22, 2016. Only a few short seconds had passed since the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Brussels. Wells was alive, but his journey beyond this moment had only begun. There were more miracles, more pain, and more danger he had yet to experience.
The passport scanner wasn't working.
Biting back building frustration, Elder Mason Wells tried again.
His companion, Elder Joseph Empey, senior missionary Elder Richard Norby, and Sister Fanny Clain all waited in anticipation.
The scanner had worked just fine a moment ago when two tourists had mistaken the Elders' white shirts, ties, and name tags to mean they were airport employees and asked for help scanning their own passports.
Now, with Sister Clain's departure time from the Brussels airport to the U.S. quickly approaching, the scanner wasn't working.
This time, a real airport employee came to the front of the line and tried.
Suggesting they try another kiosk, the four missionaries waited three minutes to get to the front of another line.
Noting their presumed bad luck, the airport employee suggested they explain their technological woes to the attendant at the luggage check-in desk.
With Sister Clain's ticket confirmation in hand, Elder Wells made his way with Elder Empey, Elder Norby, and Sister Clain to the back of the check-in line.
None of them knew it at the time, but that irritating delay would save their lives.
"That passport [scanner] not working, that five-minute delay that happened to us, that definitely saved us from something much, much, worse," Wells remembers. "I've looked back at the detonation site and undoubtedly we wouldn't be here if it weren't for that."
Unable to brush aside the anxious feeling of falling behind schedule, Elder Wells pulled out his iPad to look at their schedule for the day. It was 7:58 a.m. They would have to catch a train, and it was beginning to look like they might have to ride a later one.
They were in line for less than 30 seconds when a blast lifted Wells off his feet.
"I remember thinking, 'This shouldn't be happening in an airport; why is everything exploding around me?'" Wells says. "My second thought was, 'Wait, this is a bomb.'"
Instinctively, Wells closed his eyes and flames exploded around him, searing his face and right hand with second-degree and third-degree burns.
Shrapnel burrowed itself into his body, rupturing his Achilles tendon, and slicing his heel, ripping out skin and bone and severing blood vessels.
Less than a second had elapsed, but to Wells, it felt much longer.
He blinked, watching fire dissipate in front of his body. He was the only one in the airport left standing. His wristwatch was gone, flung somewhere in the debris along with his left shoe.
It was bright, too bright, and for a moment, the thought flashed through Wells's head that he was dead. "I was expecting at any second to come out of my body and see my body laying there on the ground in the airport," Wells says. But just like a movie scene, the smoke parted, and Wells saw them, the dark figures crumpled on the ground around him.
It was then that something inside of Wells urged him to move, to get away from this horrific scene. Reorienting himself, he saw light streaming from the airport doors, which had been blown away in the blast.
He took one step and nearly collapsed on the ground.
The brief reprieve from pain was gone. Rapidly firing synapsis from neuron to neuron in Wells's body alerted him that he was, in fact, alive, and something was terribly wrong. Fighting through the pain, Wells took another step on his injured foot, then another step on his right foot, inching with small steps toward the shattered doors.
Surprisingly, he wasn't panicked. In fact, he had felt something most people don't when surviving a terrorist attack—calm. "I was blessed a lot to keep my calm and keep my cool and be able to think clearly," Wells says. "I can say now, and this may sound crazy, but I can say now that March 22 was one of the most peaceful days of my entire life."
In 10 seconds, he somehow managed to trip and stumble across several feet of the floor before a second explosion clashed through the airport, sending him off balance yet again.
Fortunately, Wells was far enough away by that point to spare his body from further shrapnel and he was somehow able to remain on his feet. Dodging hanging ceiling panels, broken metal, and shattered glass, Wells limped outside.
But the danger wasn't over yet.
After surviving three separate terrorist attacks, Mason Wells was left with third-degree burns, emotional scars, and a shaken belief in God. How could a merciful Father let evil prevail? Why had Mason been saved? What did God want from him? This miraculous true story will change how you see your own struggles and teach you the true power of forgiveness, perseverance, and faith.