Norwood Thomas' son tells PEOPLE the media coverage of their journey to Australia is "unreal"
It’s a storybook romance come to life!
After three days of travel, American WWII veteran Norwood Thomas was finally reunited with his long-lost wartime sweetheart Joyce Durrant in Adelaide, Australia, on Wednesday – after over 70 years apart.
The story has warmed hearts around the world, with Thomas’ son Steve telling PEOPLE that the “media frenzy is unreal.” The lovebirds first met in London in the 1940s while Thomas, 93, was with the 101st Airborne Division and Durrant, 88, was a student nurse. But in the past few days, the duo has become minor celebrities in Australia, according to Steve. The group has to sneak out of their hotel under cover, he says.
The couple, who reunited thanks to a GoFundMe campaign and the generosity of Air New Zealand, appeared on Australia’s The Project, Thursday, to discuss their journey back into each other’s arms.
“We’re at the end of our lives and this is like a little something special isn’t it, to take us out,” Durrant told The Project, appearing alongside Thomas. She added, “We’ve had a wonderful time, I’ve had some beautiful flowers.”
When asked if they thought they were getting a another shot at love, so late in life, Thomas replied, “I don’t think I really needed a second chance, I don’t think it ever died.”[facebook url="https://www.facebook.com/theprojecttv/videos/10153399183423441/" /]
Originally meeting during wartime, the pair fell quickly in love (with Durrant even admitting that Thomas took her virginity), keeping in touch by letter when the Virginia Beach, Virginia, resident had to return home.
“We used to write letters to one another and I got this letter, and it said, ‘Would I make his house a home?’ and I had no idea that it was a proposal,” Durrant told The Project. “I completely got the wrong end of the stick, I thought he must have married his sweetheart and she wasn’t making his house a home. I don’t think I wrote a very nice letter back.”
The misunderstanding ended their communication, but Durrant said Thomas was “always there” when she reminisced. Both went on to marry others, with Thomas losing his wife in 2001 and Durrant divorcing her husband after 30 years.
Set into motion by Durrant’s request that her son Robert Morris look up her former love, the pair first reunited through Skype in November. Covered by the Virginian Pilot, the story garnered a major response – and inspired fans and Air New Zealand to sponsor Thomas’ journey.
“Air New Zealand has been fantastic,” Steve tells PEOPLE of their travels. While both “exhausted,” it’s clear that the arduous trip was worth it.
“This is about the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me,” Thomas said after hugging Durrant for the first time.
Thomas and Steve will stay in Australia for the next two weeks, they told the Pilot, sight-seeing and catching up on decades past.
“We haven’t had any tears – yet,” Durrant told the Pilot, “but there might be when he goes back.”