Who Were Justin & Stephanie Shults? The American Brussels Victims Had Just Started Life Together


They were a young couple from Tennessee, living and working abroad in Belgium. Just think about that for a moment. Think about how exciting it must have been for Justin and Stephanie Shults to live in Brussels. It's easy to picture them finding a favorite cafe, scoping out some nice parks to go for afternoon strolls. They were young and lovely. And now they are gone. Who were Justin and Stephanie Shults? They were an American couple who died in the terrorist attacks on Brussels last Tuesday.

The couple had been missing since the attacks, but it was confirmed Tuesday by the companies they worked for and their families that they did indeed lose their lives in the airport bombing.

And what a shame that truly is, because their lives so clearly held such promise for the future. The couple moved to Brussels in 2014 for work purposes. Justin, a native of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, was working for the Tennessee-based filtration company Clarcor. And Stephanie, a native of Lexington, Kentucky, worked for Mars, Inc. The couple were both accountants. They attended Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management.

Justin and Stephanie were at the airport in Brussels last Tuesday to wave goodbye to Stephanie's mother, Carolyn Moore. Moore, who had been visiting the couple, was not injured when the suitcase bomb exploded at the Brussels airport.

Expressions of condolences have been pouring in for the lost couple. Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos issued this statement on the university's website upon receiving the tragic news.

We are saddened to learn that the deaths of Vanderbilt alumni Justin and Stephanie Shults have been confirmed. Our hearts go out to their families and friends as they begin to cope with their passing. Both Justin and Stephanie received degrees from our Owen Graduate School of Management. Justin also received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt. This bright young couple chose, in the spirit of discovery, to become global citizens in order to grow, to learn and to broaden their perspective. They represented the very best of Vanderbilt and Owen.

Justin's brother posted his own sentiments on Twitter.

President Obama reached out to the victims' families on Sunday to offer his condolences, saying; "Justin and Stephanie epitomized all that was good about America."

Justin and Stephanie Shults were young and vibrant, and they were looking forward to traveling the globe. They were loved by their families. They were respected and valued by their employers. They had so much to look forward to — so much living left to do. Their story should be just beginning, not ending.

It's a cool and cloudy day in Brussels today. Justin and Stephanie should be bundled up in light jackets and sweaters, moving about the beautiful old European city they called home. Thinking about what to make for supper, or calling home to check in on their families and friends, or maybe even hopping on a train for a little getaway. But they won't be, and it's clear they will be greatly missed by everyone who knew them.