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Joseph Empey, a Mormon missionary, will be returning to the United States this week

By Caitlin Keating
Updated March 30, 2016 09:45 AM
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Credit: Courtesy Court Empey

Joseph Empey, a 20-year-old Mormon missionary, walked into the front doors of the Brussels airport on Tuesday to drop off a fellow missionary who was boarding a flight to the United States. He barely walked out alive.

After just one minute of waiting in the Delta check-in line to help his colleague, Fanny Rachel Clain, 20, with her luggage, a bomb went off and the force of the explosion knocked Empey to the ground.

“It was about 15-20 feet away,” Empey tells PEOPLE. “I remember everything went black and I was unconscious.”

Moments later, a second bomb went off. When Empey woke up, he was “surrounded by havoc.”

“There was lot of smoke. I kind of put everything together in my mind and I knew it was a bomb and a terrorist attack,” he recalls. “I saw bodies everywhere and there were people yelling and screaming.”

At least 36 people were killed last Tuesday in the explosions at the airport and at Maelbeek Metro station.

Empey, from Santa Clara, Utah, lost sight of the three colleagues he traveled with that morning: Richard Norby, 66, Mason Wells, 19, and Clain.

After he collected himself, he says, “I wanted to find out where they were and I was looking for them around me. I ran over to the side next to this pillar and I was kind of afraid there might be more terrorists and fire.”

But after a few seconds, he knew he was in the clear and he ran outside, where he found them injured. One was badly bleeding from the leg.

“I had a lot of adrenaline at the moment so I didn’t feel the pain in my legs. I could actually walk,” he says.

For more stories of survivors of the Brussels terror attacks, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

Once they were all together, they “said a prayer together” for about fifteen minutes.

At Least Six People Linked to the Brussels Attacks Were Detained in a Series of Raids

Since that attack, Empey, who had injuries to his legs and burns on his body, has been improving every day and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I should be back to how I was before the accident,” he says. “I just got to see my parents two days ago and I was super happy. It had been a year.”

He adds: “There were people who were really hurt and people who died, but good can good still come from it.”