'It's a sacred day,' Utah missionary recalls Brussels terror attack one year later

'It’s a sacred day,' Utah missionary recalls Brussels terror attack one year later (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) – Richard Norby still has open wounds on his feet a year after he was hit by a devastating bomb explosion in the Brussels, Belgium airport.

"The airport on March 22 has given me lots to think about and lots to be grateful for," Norby said.

His journey to recovery has taken him from an emergency triage center at the airport, to a Belgian hospital, to the University of Utah Hospital and then to countless physical therapy sessions.

“I’ll be forever grateful for what was given to me,” Norby said.

His attitude on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the blast is one of appreciation, gratitude, and strength.

“I knew from the moment I survived that I wouldn’t be terrorized, that I would be a survivor,” Norby said Tuesday night as he and his family remembered the attack one year later. “It’s a sacred day and it’s a sacred place.”

At the time, Norby and his wife Pam were serving as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brussels. Richard had accompanied three young missionaries to the airport on the morning of March 22, 2016.

Moments after saying goodbye to Fanny Clain, 20, as she departed to continue her missionary service in the United States, Norby and Joseph Empey, 20, of Santa Clara, and Mason Wells, 19, of Sandy were yards away from the blast.

All three were all seriously injured by the shrapnel which flew across the busy airport terminal.

“I got up to run out, and fell down, got up again, fell down. I knew that my left leg was injured bad enough that I couldn’t,” Norby said.

On the ground and realizing the severity of his injuries, Norby’s first thought was to reach for his cell phone and call his wife who was waiting for him at home.

“I don’t know that I realized how difficult that call was,” Norby said.

He says she immediately recognized the severity of the call when he addressed her by her first name.

“When Richard called … it just took the air out of me,” Pam Norby said. “It was complete shock.”

The shock remained as Pam called the couple’s children to tell them what had happened before it hit the news in the United States.

“American, LDS Missionary, foreign country, terrorists an you put those two together, especially along the Wasatch front and that can make some news,” Norby said.

He had significant burns to his legs and back, and was placed in a medically-induced coma.

He was transferred to the University of Utah Hospital where he underwent months of surgeries and therapy. Eventually, he was able to stand with the help of therapists and then on his own.

Now, Norby is walking well and you wouldn’t know he had been injured if he didn’t show you the wounds and scars.

The Norby’s say they keep in touch with the other missionaries who were injured in the attack, and are making plans to return to the Brussels airport where he was injured.

Through everything, Norby insisted he isn’t a victim.

“If we view ourselves as victims then the terrorists have won,” Norby said.

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