Home community Richard and Pam Norby Share Missionary Experience with Sons of Utah Pioneers

Richard and Pam Norby Share Missionary Experience with Sons of Utah Pioneers

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Kim Warner gave the Member/Pioneer of the Month Report. 

Guests speakers were Richard and Pam Norby.  Richard grew up in Granger, Utah.  After attending BYU for a year, he served a mission to France and Belgium.  Pam grew up in California and attended BYU, where she took the mission lessons and was baptized by her future husband.  After marriage, they moved to Toole where he taught seminary for 37 years.  In 2003 they were called to West Africa to preside over the Ivory Coast Mission, which included Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Cameron, and Central African Republic. They currently reside in Lehi. They are parents of five children with sixteen grandchildren.

The couple served a mission to West Africa, before receiving a second call later to the France, Paris Mission, which included France, Luxemburg, and Belgium.  While they were in the MTC the mission president called and asked if they would serve in Brussels. They accepted and fell in love with Brussles. They lived in Brussels, Belgium where their mission president assigned them to work with the young adults and institute program.  Pam also served as the mission medical advisor.  They loved the city and European lifestyle, slower and peaceful. The most heartwarming experiences were with the people.  They were able to work with the young adults in the institute program. 

Two years ago they arrived back in Salt Lake City on an FBI jet after Richard had spent four weeks in a coma in the hospital in Belgium.  Richard was strapped to the top of the seats on one side of the plane and Pam was seated on the opposite side. There was also a doctor, anesthesiologist, pilot, and co-pilot.  The first stop was in Iceland, then Central Canada, Southern Canada for fuel, finally landing in Salt Lake, sixteen or seventeen hours later.  It all began when, on the morning of March 22, 2016, Pam received a phone call that would dramatically change their lives.  A group of terrorists had just set off two bombs at the Brussels airport.  The call was from Richard.  Pam didn’t know if he was going to live, but she remembers reflecting back at that time on the strong women in her life who had gone through many difficult things. The Norbys had been serving about six months in Brussels.  On that morning, the zone leaders, 20 year old Joseph Empey and 19 year old Mason Wells had asked Richard if he would take them and a young French missionary, Fanny Rachel Clain, who had been working in the Brussels area waiting for a visa for her mission in Ohio, to the airport.  The four of them drove the twenty minutes to the airport. Sister Clain was standing to Richard’s left, and Elders Empey and Wells were standing a bit further left.  At about 8:00 there was an explosion about 25 feet behind them that knocked them to the ground.  Richard skidded across the pavement on his face.  He lost track of the missionaries.  Immediately, he knew it was a terrorist bomb.  About nine seconds later, he pushed himself up on his hands and tried to look around when a second bomb went off.  Everyone was running out of the airport and he was going to go with them.  As he stood up to run, he fell on his face again.  He tried to stand again, to put weight on his legs, but his left leg collapsed. 300 people were injured and 34 killed.  He and the missionaries were in the dead zone, or ground zero.  They were told that they shouldn’t have survived the explosions.  At that moment he had two thoughts:  the Savior knew who he was, knew where he was, and knew what had just happened; and that He knew what had happened to the people in the airport.  He couldn’t scoot himself; he couldn’t do anything.  He was able to reach into his pocket and pull out his cell phone.  He called Pam and told her that she needed to listen carefully, that there had been a terrorist bombing and that he had broken his leg. (It wasn’t until much later that he learned the extent of his injuries).  Pam asked about the missionaries, but he couldn’t see them.  He then said he had to go. He could see ceiling tile coming down.  There was smoke, things were tipped over, and people were screaming.  Fireballs were coming out of the ceiling and light fixtures. He had second and third degree burns on his hand and face, his back was riddled with shrapnel, he had lost the soft tissue in his left leg below his knee, his calf was gone, ankle broken along with several other broken bones. 

Finally the EMTs arrived and began to triage all the wounded.  When they asked what was wrong with him, Richard said his leg was broken. Before long the EMTs came and loaded him into an ambulance.  About 10:00 the doctors started surgery.  He was placed in a coma for several days.  Eight hours later, Pam finally found him.  She sat down with the surgeon who gave her an up to date report.  She was told he may lose both his legs. Two days later a son and a daughter flew over to help them close their apartment.  When they first saw their dad, he was wrapped with bandages from head to toe from all the burns. Richard did not lose his legs. Richard and Pam’s belief in the Savior has helped them get through the past two years.  Six weeks ago Richard had reconstructive foot surgery.  They had to put in pins, fuse joints on his toes, and transfer tendons.  He still has pieces of shrapnel that work up and out of his skin.  His hands were grafted, as were his legs.  He has deep gaping wounds that will not heal closed.  His belief in the Savior has helped him endure his experience.  He has forgiven the terrorists.  He loves the life he is living.

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