JOPLIN, Mo. —
Everything the vivacious 18-year-old experienced in his lifetime, all that he had accomplished, came down to that one terrible moment on May 22.
That moment when a dark cloud dropped from the sky, crossing the path of the Hummer H3 occupied by Will Norton and his father, Mark, at 28th Street and Schifferdecker Avenue, just a few short blocks from their home.
“How could you be at graduation, one of the happiest days of your life, and then have a cloud come down out of nowhere and suck you up out of a car?” asks Trish Norton, Will’s mother, with a rueful shake of her head. “He wasn’t driving drunk. He wasn’t doing anything he wasn’t supposed to. ... He was just coming home from graduation. Unfair.”
Six months later, Trish says she has reached a turning point. She still grieves, but she wants to start greeting each day with the same attitude exhibited by her son.
“I’m a positive person, an outgoing person, and I don’t want to be sad any longer,” she says. “Will was very positive and did really awesome things for people. I’m trying to continue that tradition.”
Physical wounds have healed, but there’s a hole left in the Nortons’ lives. Their son’s absence is felt even more profoundly as the family heads into the first holiday season without him.
“I can’t focus on the fact that he’s not coming home for Thanksgiving, or that he won’t be coming home for Christmas,” says Trish. “I don’t focus on those things.”
Instead, she says the family members are trying to stay focused on all that they have for which to be thankful: a community that rallied together during a time of tragedy, the strength of their faith, the support of friends and family, and the kindness of strangers touched by their son’s story.