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Tornado victim turns pain to aid on anniversary

Posted: 8:31 PM, May 21, 2016
Updated: 2016-05-22 18:32:48Z

On the surface, the city of Joplin looks almost as if a F-5 tornado never tore through it, but trauma and pain still mark its residents' hearts.

Mark Norton survived the tornado. His 18-year-old son, Will, did not.

"If we had been five seconds sooner, we would have been past it," Norton said, remembering the moments before the winds pulled his son from their SUV.

They were driving home from Will's high school graduation, and they were less than a minute from their house.

"As he was pulling over, you know, stopping the vehicle, I can remember him praying and reciting scripture," Norton said. "I can remember thinking, 'gosh, he is so scared,' and I had my arm on him."

During that time, all of the windows are blowing out, and there were pieces of plumbing and junk and steel going through the car, and it was picking us up like three different times," he said. "And I don’t know when I actually lost him."

Norton was badly hurt. He broke his arm trying to cling to his son.

Five days later, Will's body was found in a pond nearby.

"When you talk about ‘meant to be,' I think I was supposed to be there with him. And witness that," Norton said. "He did so much for so many people in his lifetime."

Five years later, Norton tries to channel his pain toward making positive changes in his community.

That's what Will would have wanted.

Part of the healing process included building the Will Norton Miracle Field, a nearly $1 million project that was paid for with private donations.

It's a place where children with special needs can play baseball.

"Every kid, I mean when the come across home plate, they are smiling," Norton said.

Norton often spends time at the field.

He also relies on his faith and holds tight to the memories of Will. He doesn't take it day by day, but breath by breath.

"We had 18 wonderful years, and we know we’ll see him again, so we just get from here to there," Norton said. “I like to think he is sitting in the car next to me sometimes.”