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A year later, 3 missionaries reflect on surviving Brussels attack

By Sam Penrod  |  Posted Mar 22nd, 2017 @ 11:15pm


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LEHI — With the colors of the Belgian Flag, Richard Norby and his family, along with the parents of Mason Wells, released balloons Wednesday night as a symbol of peace, one year after being caught in the middle of a terrorist attack.

One year ago, terrorists set off bombs in the Brussels airport and subway, killing over 30 people. Norby, along with Wells and Dresdan Empey, were Utah missionaries in the airport during the attack. They had been accompanying a fourth French missionary, Fanny Rachel Clain, who was traveling to her mission assignment in the Ohio Cleveland Mission.

“There were so many things that happened on March 22 that impacted my life,” Norby said.

Despite terrible injuries and a long rehabilitation, Norby expects the next year will be focused on continued healing.

"I think this second year will be a year of emotional healing, as much as the past 12 months have been physical healing that has reached its pinnacle and now we go through life enjoying what we can.”

Empey has been attending college and said the Brussels experience has helped him decide on a career. Last week, Empey had a piece of shrapnel removed from his leg. He said the care he received from a first responder has him now pursuing a career as a paramedic.

"I had an amazing paramedic at Brussels, and I felt like I was able to stay calm, and that is a big reason I have decided to become a paramedic and work as a firefighter,” he said.

Wells lives in Washington, D.C., working as an intern in Congress. "I am getting back to where I was before and for me, that is the biggest miracle,” he said.

All three former missionaries said while the past year has been full of ups and downs, in hindsight, they feel blessed.

"Ultimately, it has reinforced my belief that God truly does have a plan for every single one of us, and it is so easy to go through the day and forget that,” Wells said.

"It will be that story that I will always share with my kids and grandkids and friends,” Empey said. “It is a piece of me for the rest of my life."

“(It) strengthened my resolve to do better and be better and to promote goodness,” Norby said. “We don't want to become victims, we want to rise above that. (I) expect to live a long happy life, the airport will never deter that.”

Contributing: Xoel Cardenas, Yvette Cruz

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