The Journalist Behind This Viral Photo of the Brussels Attacks Speaks Out


Timelines across the globe were covered with the distraught face of Nidhi Chaphekar, a Jet Airways inflight manager, following Tuesday's deadly terror attack in Brussels.

The viral photo of Chaphekar, taken as the young woman was covered in soot and attempting to recover from multiple explosions near the check-in area of the Zaventem international airport, became the face of the terror and destruction enveloping the European metropolis, with her image being published by the New York Times, Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. 

And it's all because of one other woman, who felt the force of the explosions on Tuesday while in the transit hub as well. Ketevan Kardava was leaving for an assignment for the Georgian Public Broadcaster network when multiple explosions inside of the airport sent civilians running and others lying dead or injured. Instead of running with the flock, Kardava stayed, telling Time, "As a journalist, it was my duty to take these photos and show the world what was going on. I knew I was the only one at this spot."

Tuesday's attacks on the Zaventem airport and Maalbeek Metro station killed at least 34, according to the Associated Press, and injured an additional estimated 230 people. For Kardava — who told Time she saw "dozens of people without legs, lying in blood" — photographing Chaphekar was more than a mere coincidence: It was part of her responsibility. 

"She was in shock, speechless," Kardava told Time, describing her rushed chance to capture the stills of victims, including of former Belgian basketball player Sebastien Bellin, before being escorted somewhere safer. She didn't manage to find out Chaphekar's name at the time, but she told Time, "I really hope [the victims] will overcome all these difficulties."

"For the whole day we did not have any information. All they told us was she is safe," Rupesh Chaphekar, the victim's husband, told the Times of India. "But how do I know if they are not just giving us false hopes? I just want to hear her voice once. Only the airline's base manager is contacting us with information. We are not able to get through any of the helpline numbers."

Chaphekar has since been admitted to a hospital for treatment in Antwerp. "She was being operated upon for injuries and burns," Chaphekar's husband told the Times of India. "We hope to talk to her once the surgery is done."

Though tragedy will forever leave a mark on both women's experiences at the Zaventem airport in Brussels, their chance meeting will now be forever recorded in world history. 

h/t Time

Read more: Where Is Brussels? Why Belgium's Capital Has Become a Hotbed for Extremism and Terror