Passengers exit the BART station at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 22, 2016. San Francisco metro and airport security heightened their presence in response to attacks in Brussels, Belgium. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco travelers left uneasy following Brussels attack

Passengers flying out of the San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday faced more than the typical case of preflight jitters following a terrorist attack in Brussels that left at least 34 dead and hundreds injured.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for two explosions at Brussels’ Zanvantem airport on Tuesday, leaving behind a chaotic scene of bloodied bodies, blown out windows and collapsed ceilings. An additional attack shook Brussels after a bomb exploded on a subway train near the city’s European Union headquarters an hour later.

In response to the bombings in the Belgian capital, the San Francisco Police Department deployed extra officers at SFO, the Port of San Francisco and at San Francisco Municipal Railway stations, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

“We’re asking the public if they see something, say something, and to report any suspicious activity,” Esparza said.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement Tuesday morning that public safety agencies have reported to him there is no known threat to San Francisco, but that The City’s police remained on heightened alert.

“We stand with the people of Brussels and all of Belgium and stand strong against intolerance,” Lee said. “We pray for the families of the victims of these senseless acts of violence.”

Though many of the passengers traveling in and out of SFO on Tuesday said the bombings in Brussels just hours prior were on their minds, no passengers faced delays or canceled flights in light of the attacks. SFO has no flights to Belgium.

“On a day like this, passengers can expect to see a heightened amount of vigilance in the form of patrols in our airport,” said Doug Yakel, an SFO spokesperson. “We continue to meet with TSA and our law enforcement patrol to decide if any change or additional measures to our procedures are needed.”

For travelers departing from SFO, increased security meant additional police officers on the ground, winding lines at security checkpoints and a pack of TSA K9 dogs that roamed the airport, stopping to sniff luggage.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen dogs here,” said Kay Brown, a Sacramento resident traveling abroad with her husband. Brown, who has flown to and from the airport multiple times, said there was a noticeable increase in security Tuesday morning.

Brown and her husband were traveling to the Czech Republic for their anniversary and arrived more than four hours early before their flight departed to Amsterdam in anticipation of the extended security lines.

Anthony and Jessica Grant, newlyweds living in Tenderloin district who were traveling internationally for the first time Tuesday to celebrate their honeymoon, said they also noticed the increased patrol and a change in mood from people traveling following the attacks in Brussels.

“Everyone just seems very uptight, a little nervous,” Jessica Grant said.

“It’s kind of weird because we are [traveling] to go celebrate, but I imagine there are going to be some somber people, as it should be,” Anthony Grant said.

Paris-born Gilles Deraegt was on his way home back to France on Tuesday afternoon after a 10-day stay in San Francisco with his wife to visit their son. He said the attacks in Belgium, though unfortunate, did not come as a surprise.

“It’s terrible,” Deraegt said. “We are not very afraid because it’s not the first time. It’s a bigger problem.”

Deraegt and his wife lived in France when similar attacks hit Paris last November, leaving 130 people dead after multiple bombs were set off throughout the city. The Deraegts said the increased frequency in large-scale bombings throughout Europe leaves them wondering where the next terrorist attack could occur.

The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.

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