Fate

While boarding a Southwest flight in September, I sat in a window seat on the wing of the plane. A couple from Greenwood joined me in row 21. Small talk, turned into an inspirational story beginning with tragedy and ending with triumph.

The Norris’ had no idea that a few weeks later, I would call looking to share their story. Thankfully, they were thrilled and I am not exaggerating when over 40 people reached out or showed up to interview to speak.

I hope by the end of this story you will understand why.

Family

On June 10, 2014, David and Paula Norris got a call, about their youngest son, Aaron Norris. A call no parent expects to hear.

“It was 2:30 in the morning, when we got the call. Rick Smith said Aaron is critical and y’all need to get up here. I asked what happened. He said an ATV accident,” says Aaron Norris’ mother Paula Norris.

When asked the last time they had spoken to their son before the accident, it was Father’s Day, June 9th. “I still have the text messages on my phone,” says David Norris, Aaron’s father.

“We were all there, had a great father’s day, had our pictures taken with all the men in the family. I said go watch the Cavs, have fun, I’ll see you tomorrow,” says Paula Norris.

One of Aaron’s friends and football team mates, Brody Anthony, reflects on the moment he heard the news of the accident. “It didn’t seem real, I couldn’t get a grasp on it. It was one of those, you hear it but you don’t want to believe it,” says Anthony.

“It’s not individuals in this town, it’s a family living together,” says Brody Anthony.

Fear

After the accident, at Midland Memorial Hospital, Aaron struggled for ten days on life support. “I think about the hundreds, literally the hundreds of people sitting there,” says family friend Kellye Northcutt.

“Even though the Doctor would come in every day and say your son is dying. I said you know what we serve a mighty God and I believe he’s going to perform a miracle and save our Son,” says Paula Norris.

“You walked into that waiting room and it was standing room only, they even asked us to go down and wait at the bottom floor,” says family friend Amanda Lambert.

When the morning of June 20th arrive, Paula and David had to make a decision no parent prepares for.

“We removed his life support, stayed with him for three hours, and talk to him until the last second,” says David Norris.

Trey Edwards, one of Aaron’s friends, was there the night of the accident. “It was a horrible night and I think about it every day,” says Trey.

“The minute he was born we were holding him and praying for him. The second he died, we were holding him and praying for him,” says David Norris.

Faith

For Zach Crook, a local pastor in Greenwood, he didn’t know the Norris family. Moving to Greenwood this past summer, just before Aaron Norris’ ATV accident.

“My introduction to the Greenwood community was someone posting on Facebook around 3PM Tuesday afternoon, we’re going to have a prayer vigil at the Norris’ house. As a pastor I thought, what this family needs in encouragement. How is anyone going to be at this vigil in four hours to pray for this young man. So I called and messaged who I could, and sure enough, I showed up maybe 10 minutes before it started, and I had to park a half a mile away from there house from the hundreds of people.”

Greenwood High School’s Head Football Coach and the Norris Family’s next door neighbor, weighs in on how powerful the night became.

“That was one of the most amazing things I have ever been apart of. At that vigil across the street, all the people from Greenwood that came around, it just says a lot about what this community is and what it is about,” says Coach Shad Hanna.

“We just prayed you know, we give God the glory for giving us Aaron 24 years,” says David Norris. “They day he was born, the day he died, and every day in between we pray for our children. God’s got a reason and we’ll know it. We’re looking forward to finding out what that reason was.”

“You know what the miracle was, it was Aaron going to heaven,” says Paula Norris.

Football

Aaron Norris played football all four years at Greenwood High School, known for his contagious personality and relentless energy. Both present and past Ranger Football coaches spoke about Norris’ performance.

“We put in a lot of plays just for him because we knew we can depend on him. He was one of our guys on both sides of the ball,” says former offensive coordinator Jayme Teder.

“No doubt he is going to smile, he’s going to look you in the eye and have a good word for you. He just had that great ability to put his personal situation aside, and shine a bright light on whoever was around him,” says Lee Brockman defensive coordinator.

“He was just a die hard Ranger,” says head football coach Shad Hanna.

Starting this football season at Greenwood Highs School, the electronic first down marker funded by Paul and Kellye Edwards, family friends of the Norris’, has Bobby Aaron Norris’ initials (BAN) labeled beneath the board.

“This is the legacy, and they showed everybody how to live life, these two and Adam (Aaron’s older brother), with how they handled this loss,” says Kellye Edwards.

“He loved life and he loved everybody,” says Paul Edwards.

Full Circle

“We’re going to see him again, I just know it, I have no doubt,” says David Norris.

“We just want to be an influence to people who have lost a child. We want to be there for them in anyway we can, because you have to stick together,” says Paula Norris.

Aaron Norris’ football number was 21. Whether you believe in fate, luck, or divine intervention, there was an angel watching over me on that plane. I forgot my backpack on board and ran back to find right above my seats, by the wing of the plane, on the right-hand side. Paula and David Norris, and myself sat in row 21.

I can’t thank Paula and David enough for being so kind on that flight. They have changed my perspective on telling stories, and strengthened my faith in West Texas communities. #LiveLikeNorris