Wrested from promising lives: Victims from patchwork of backgrounds

People in Brussels gathered at the Place de la Bourse for a minute of silence on Thursday to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attacks.
People in Brussels gathered at the Place de la Bourse for a minute of silence on Thursday to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attacks. For The Washington Post

At least 31 people were killed in Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, and many of the victims remain unidentified. The victims of the bombings, who were just starting their day at Brussels Airport and a subway station, represent a wide array of nationalities and backgrounds.

Volunteer for the elderly

Before Elita Borbor Weah set foot in Brussels Airport on Tuesday, her family was already in mourning.

A native of Liberia who lived in Deventer, Netherlands, Weah was on her way to the United States to attend a funeral in Rhode Island when she was killed in the attack on the airport.

A member of a large family spread across the world, Weah, 41, was one of eight siblings. Many of her relatives were to meet in Providence, Rhode Island, to attend her stepfather’s memorial. Her death was confirmed by a family member in Rhode Island.

In the moments before her death, Weah posed for a photograph in the airport, bundled up in a black winter coat and scarf. Her brother, Oscar Weah, said the photograph had been taken around 8 a.m. Tuesday. He had planned to pick her up from the airport in New York that day.

In Deventer, Elita Weah was a single mother with a 13-year-old daughter, whom family members said was in the care of a relative. Weah and her daughter were close and were always together, according to Ambrose Ajala, a family friend who shared an apartment with Weah for four years.

Weah was a talented cook who often made traditional African dishes like Jollof rice, Ajala said. She had been living in the Netherlands since 1999, after fleeing Liberia as a refugee, he said.

She spent three days a week as a volunteer for a city organization that provided social services to residents, he said. She worked mostly with older Dutch people, and she was taking lessons in Dutch to speak with them more fluently.

Law student and actor

Léopold Hecht was a second-year law student at the Université Saint-Louis in Brussels who enjoyed skiing and had a knack for acting.

In the hours after the terrorist attacks Tuesday, his name appeared on a list of missing people as friends and family sent desperate appeals for information on social media.

On Wednesday, Pierre Jadoul, president of the university, posted on Facebook that Hecht had died, calling him a “victim of the barbaric acts perpetrated on March 22 at the Maelbeek metro station.”

Many students took to Facebook to remember Hecht, 20, as a brilliant theater improviser.

“It is horrible to say that you, who made me laugh so much that night, could be wrested from such a promising life,” Martin Sas wrote on the university’s Facebook page, which became a memorial to Hecht.

Véronique Gigot described Hecht as “radiant” at an improv show on March 14. “Your sense of humor, your smile, your energy, your talent brightened up the evening,” she wrote.

Teacher at Islamic school

A gym instructor at an Islamic school in Brussels, Loubna Lafquiri was dedicated to teaching children respect for others, self-confidence, perseverance and forgiveness, all with a love and appreciation for Islam.

School officials, and her students, were surprised when she did not arrive for class Tuesday.

They later learned that she was one of the victims of the attack in the subway. Ihsane Bari, a woman who identified herself on Facebook as Lafquiri’s sister, confirmed her death Thursday night.

She called Lafquiri, the mother of three boys, “an exemplary teacher” who had been “torn from her family by cowards.”

”She was an exceptional woman,” Mohamed Allaf, the school’s co-founder told CNN. “She represented the true values of Islam with generosity and caring.

“She’s an energetic woman who smiles all the time,” he added.

New York-bound siblings

Alexander and Sascha Pinczowski, a brother and sister living in Belgium, never lingered in one place for long. The children of a hotel manager, they had lived in Turkey, Greece and Germany, and were on their way back to New York, a city they both loved, when they arrived at the departures hall at Brussels Airport on Tuesday.

Alexander Pinczowski was going to meet his fiancée in New York, where he and his sister had recently lived, so they could attend a wedding together in North Carolina. His sister was planning to spend the weekend with friends. They were standing in the Delta ticket line and were on the phone with their mother, Marjan Pinczowski-Fasbender, when two bombs exploded.

James Cain, the father of Alexander Pinczowski’s fiancée, Cameron Cain, said in an interview that family and friends who had gathered in Brussels learned Friday morning that Sascha Pinczowski, 26, and Alexander Pinczowski, 29, had not survived the blasts.

Alexander Pinczowski and Cameron Cain, who met five years ago in North Carolina, both loved to travel and were interested in world news and politics.

“The first time I met him, I thought, ‘Gosh, this young man thinks he knows more than I do about international affairs,’” said James Cain, a former U.S. ambassador to Denmark. “And after a year or so, I realized, ‘He does.’”

The siblings were opposites, but they were close, said Christine Moore, a family friend.

“Alex has always been more of an intellectual,” Moore said in an interview, “and Sascha is gregarious but very sweet.”

Sascha Pinczowski, who spoke five languages, had an active social life in New York, with friends who worked in fashion and night clubs. She had attended Marymount Manhattan College and was interested in events production. She had interned at UNICEF and was hoping to pursue a career in the city, James Cain said.

Her brother loved traveling and animals. In an Instagram account dedicated to his dog, Nelson, a wirehaired vizsla, Alexander Pinczowski posted occasional photos of his sister and parents.

The siblings were Dutch and lived in Lanaken, a Flemish part of Belgium. But they hoped to become U.S. citizens and considered New York a second home, James Cain said. On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York called them “two of our own.”

Mother of twin girls

Adelma Tapia Ruiz, a Peruvian woman who had lived in Brussels for almost nine years, was traveling with her twin 3-year-old daughters to visit her mother in New York when two bombs exploded at Brussels Airport on Tuesday.

One daughter, Maureen, received shrapnel wounds in one arm, while the other, Alondra, was not injured. Tapia’s husband, Christopher Delcambe, who was seeing his family off at the airport, was also injured during the explosion, and he and Maureen were hospitalized.

Tapia, 36, was the first confirmed victim of the attacks.

“We danced together at an event for Women’s Day just recently,” said Lady Sindey Jouany, a friend of Tapia’s who lives in Paris. “She was a very active woman. I’m still in shock. At first I thought it was someone else, and it took time to understand how this could have happened to her and how close to home it has hit.”

Tapia’s brother, Fernando Tapia Coral, who confirmed her death, said, “Adelma was a chef and had studied marketing; she wanted to set up a Peruvian restaurant in Brussels.”

Adelma Tapia’s Facebook page is filled with photographs of her and her children. In one post, she wrote about participating in a Peruvian food festival sponsored by the Peruvian consul general in Brussels.