Injured Senior Missionary Refuses to Be a Victim, Relies on Faith and Gratitude

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Richard Norby
Richard Norby, who lost most of his calf muscle in the Brussels bombing, explains his injuries to Deseret News (via deseretnews.com).

After the terrorist bombing of the Brussels airport injured four LDS missionaries on March 22, 2016, senior missionary Richard Norby, who was injured as he accompanied three young missionaries to the airport, refuses to react in fear or hate towards his attackers.

Norby, 67, who was serving in the France Paris Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his wife, Pam Norby, exemplifies Christlike love towards the attackers, humility and gratitude in his experiences, and faith through his trials.

A powerful advocate for love and faith, Norby describes the events of the terrorist bombing. After the initial blast knocked him to the floor, Norby expressed frustration, yelling, “We’re just here to send a missionary off!” After the second blast, he attempted to get up and run, falling as soon as he tried. He realized he had a broken left leg and foot, and he was shocked to see his own burned and tattered hands.

“I had the most peaceful, comfortable feeling ever, laying there for 45 minutes,” Norby told Deseret News. “I knew I could have died but that I wouldn’t. As soon as I called my wife and knew the other missionaries were safe and got a priesthood blessing from Elder Empey, I just sat and waited.” Attributing his miraculous healing to Elder Empey’s blessing, Norby chose in that moment to accept God’s will, whatever it may be.

Brussel Missionaries MTC
Dresden Empey (left) and Mason Wells (right) visit Sister Fanny Clain (middle right) with her companion in the Provo MTC. Empey, Mason, and Clain were the three other missionaries injured in the Brussels airport terrorist attack (via mormonnewsroom.org).

After medical teams arrived and wheeled him through the hallways of the hospital, he said, “I was trying to physically reach out and hold people who were hurt, to touch them to let them know it would be all right, even the medical staff and the nurses; I wanted them to know I was so grateful.”

His gratitude, despite the burns over 35 percent of his body, broken bones, shrapnel wounds, and pneumonia and infections, is what inspires him to see the Brussels Zaventem Airport as “a sacred place.”

“I don’t know why 32 died, and I don’t know why 89 died in Paris,” Norby said. “I don’t know. But I know the Brussels airport is a sacred, holy place, because we were saved there. It’s not a place I don’t want to return to. It’s a place I want to return to, to remember the Lord, and that he saved me there.”

When family and friends ask him if he’s afraid to go back to Belgium, Norby says, “I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor. Fear won’t stop me from going to Europe or an airport or accepting refugees. If we become more fearful, we’re being acted upon. I’m going to live my life, and I’m going to teach my children and grandchildren that we put our trust in God.”

“Our focus isn’t terrorism, because we’re not terrorized,” Norby said. “We’re just grateful. The Lord has our hearts. I want others to understand the miracle, and I want others to understand the miracle Pam witnessed.”

Richard and Pam Norby
Richard Norby and his wife, Pam, served their mission in Brussels, Belgium. After serving in the Franco-Belgian Mission as a young missionary, Richard was excited to serve in the France Paris Mission with his wife Pam. He also taught seminary for more than 30 years. They were released from missionary service on April 17, 2016 (via mormonnewsroom.org).

Pam, who served as the France Paris Mission’s nurse, experienced her own chaos far from the airport blast. “Pam didn’t have any bandages,” her husband said. “She didn’t have a hospital stay. But she was wounded. She was involved in a blast of her own, and she has been healed, too.”

Several minutes after the attack, Norby called Pam, saying, “Listen carefully. There’s been a bombing. I’ve been burned on my face and my hands. My leg’s broken.” After reassuring her that he was okay, Pam waited anxiously for eight hours before finally finding her husband in surgery. Although he wouldn’t be able to speak for weeks, and only recently began to take his first steps, Pam soon knew they would make it through their trial.

“[We] have been fine,” Pam said. “Shaken for a moment, but fine. It’s one of those defining moments, where we can look back and know that things will be okay with what you know, with the testimony you have.”

Impossibly kind to every nurse, doctor, and attendant, Norby radiates Christlike love, peace, and gratitude despite his experiences.

“It’s not God’s fault,” he said. “We don’t blame him. If this is how he in his plan has deemed it, then that’s what I want.”

Richard Norby
Richard Norby laughs at a photo of himself after the attack. His wife, Pam, laughs in the background (via deseretnews.com).

As he looks through pictures of his recovery and the attacks, he tries to remember, rather than forget, what happened at the Brussels airport.

“I want to remember this,” he said. “I don’t want to lose the miracle.”

Although some may turn to hate and fear, Norby looks at his situation differently.

“I don’t really care about this,” he added, waving at his injured legs. “I don’t care about ISIS. I’ve never given them the first thought. I’m concerned about the people who were injured. Every time we hear about a disaster, and the disasters are coming just about daily, I know what that feels like, to be in the hospital, to be burned and broken. We’re survivors. Not victims.

“So every day’s a picnic for me. I could not be happier than I am today.”

While his doctors and family commend him for his patience and perseverance in his daily challenges, Norby celebrates his life and the opportunity he has to spend time with his loving family and friends.

“Gosh, it’s a good life,” he said. “I just can’t tell you how good it is.”

To read more about the day of the bombing and events following, as well as how Richard Norby faced his lengthy recovery, read the original article from Deseret News.

Katie is an intern editor and writer for LDS.net. She recently graduated from Utah State University with a degree in English and served a mission in the African countries of Zambia and Botswana. She enjoys stories, chocolate, and traveling.