The Road to Healing: One Year Later


It’s been one year since the bombings at Brussels Airport brought Pam and Richard Norby’s mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to an abrupt and violent end 11 months ahead of schedule.

Pam was nowhere near the attack, but Richard was right in the middle of it—he’d been dropping off missionaries at the airport when he fell to the ground amidst the chaos and smoke with a broken left leg, broken left foot and severe burns that covered one-third of his body. He’d spend more than three weeks at a hospital in Belgium before being transported to University of Utah Health Burn Center for another six weeks of intensive, inpatient recovery.

The early days were often discouraging as Richard battled infections, pain and uncertainty but the Norbys insist that the experience—from being saved by Belgian doctors to the months of recovery in Utah—have been almost entirely positive. His marriage, bonds with family and faith in God have never been stronger, and support that poured in from across the globe helped carry him.

“I have been lifted by this,” Richard said. “I don’t see anything negative. My foot hurts once in a while, I can’t run upstairs like I used to or play catch with a Frisbee or go swimming, but I’ve done that all before. This experience has given me a perspective of who God is and where his place is.”

Today, Richard is back on his feet with help from an ankle foot orthotic that keeps his foot at a 90-degree angle, allowing him to walk. He’s still close with fellow patients from the burn unit who, as he put it, all had “major owwies, but it didn’t matter who had it worse.” They just supported each other.

Monthly wound care is still part of Richard’s life, but he insists he looks forward to it.

“I can hardly wait to go because I just love these people,” Richard said. “I can’t explain what the nurses are to me. We laughed with them, we cried with them. They see thousands of patients, and they treat everybody how they treated us. I’ll never forget them.”

Speaking of the U of U Health Burn Unit doctors, nurses and staff, Pam said “They became our family.” Her advice to a family going through something like this?

“The first thing is probably just don’t give up and be positive and look forward and know that there’s amazing possibilities for care, for healing, for getting things fixed,” Pam said. “It seems so bleak right at the beginning because you don’t know what’s out there or what’s going to be available or who’s going to help, but [the important thing is] maintaining hope and faith that things will somehow work out.”

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