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Justin and Stephanie Shults are pictured in a photo taken in 2015.

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. — Hundreds of family and friends gathered here Sunday to pay tribute to Justin and Stephanie Shults, a couple from Tennessee who were killed in the March 22 terrorist attack in Belgium.

Justin Shults, 30, grew up in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains before earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he met the former Stephanie Moore, 29. The Shultses lived and worked in Brussels and had taken Stephanie's mother to the Brussels airport when two bombs exploded. A dozen people died at the airport. An additional 20 were killed at a Brussels train station. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Terror in the internationally important seat of the European Union contrasted sharply and sadly with the pastoral scene of cows grazing beside the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River near Richardson's Cove Baptist Church. Sevier County, Tenn., is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that sees 10 million-plus tourists each year. But the terror tore a hole in the heart of a community.

"We want to thank the family for doing this (memorial service)," said Sammy Justus, Justin Shults' former pastor. "We know you are emotionally and physically tired. We the people of Sevier County needed this."

Justus described the young Shults as an energetic child who burst through the doors eager to learn in Sunday school. "God gave Justin a special mind that cannot be created by education alone," Justus said. "It can only be honed and polished."

Read more from our news partners at The Tennessean.

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