BRUSSELS -- Parents of a Utah missionary hurt in the terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22 shared their thoughts after seeing their son in the hospital.
Elder Joseph Empey, 20, is wrapped in bandages as he recovers from burns and surgery.
But through the gauze dressings, and his wounds, the Empey family said what struck them the most about seeing their son was, "His eyes and his smile."
“He's got bandages all around his face, but he's got these pretty blue eyes,” said Amber Empey, Joseph's mother. “He was thankful and excited to see us."
His father, Court Empey, said despite the injuries, their son's countenance still shines through.
“You could see through all the burns and all of his injuries, that it’s still his same soul and heart in there," he said.
The couple flew from Santa Clara, Utah to Belgium after Tuesday’s terrorist bombing in Brussels that nearly killed Elder Empey. He was at the airport check in, where the bomb went off.
Elder Empey has relived those moments to his parents.
"It was horrifying what he went through,” Court Empey said. “He remembers the blast. It knocked him out. He was very scared and hiding, and then he went into helping those around him, looking for his three missionary colleagues to help them."
Two other Utah LDS missionaries also got caught in the blast and remain hospitalized—19-year-old Elder Mason Wells of Sandy, and 66-year-old Elder Richard Norby of Lehi. A 20-year-old sister missionary from France, Fanny Clain, was also wounded.
Elder Empey told his parents: “‘I don't understand it, I just know that there's so much more good and love in the world that it'll always win,’" Court Empey said, quoting his son.
The couple said his brothers and sisters are anxious to see him heal and return home. Elder Empey was just a few months shy of finishing his mission when he got caught in the blast.
"He's the oldest of five kids, and he’s just been my buddy since he was born,” Amber Empey said, tearfully. “From the time he was a little boy he's just stepped up and taken care of all of us. He's responsible, and kind, and loving."
The family knows they have a long road ahead.
“He's going to need some time to rehabilitate and heal on the outside, and I'm sure with his emotions as well," Court Empey said.
But through the second degree burns, Elder Empey appears to show a thumbs up while he smiles for a photo and forges forward in his recovery.