Boston Marathon bombing survivor shares her memoir
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Despite more than 65 surgeries, the amputation of her leg and the recurring nightmares about the Boston Marathon bombing, Rebekah Gregory is laughing, living and loving life.
Gregory spoke Aug. 26 during the Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference.
While the conference aims to promote conservative values, Gregory’s speech inspired and brought tears to the eyes of audience members.
On April 15, 2013, Gregory was celebrating her 26th birthday in Boston and watching runners cross the finish line.
“I remember the excitement and enthusiasm in the air that day,” Gregory said. “It was so exciting.”
Life can blow up
She was 3 feet away from the bomb with her 5-year-old son, Noah, at her feet when the blast detonated.
“I can guarantee that every single person has had life blow up in their face in one way or another,” Gregory said.
Despite the force of the blast, Gregory never lost consciousness; she said she saw her left leg on fire.
“I remember every single moment of that horrific day,” Gregory said.
She described it as a war zone.
“We had all of a sudden become victims of a terrorist attack and had no idea,” Gregory said.
She heard her son yell out, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” and saw he still had all of his limbs.
“He was right there, and there was my miracle,” Gregory said.
Gregory woke up a week later from a medically induced coma, and she was unrecognizable to her mother.
After 18 months, her leg was still healing, and rods and screws were being adjusted daily to help align her foot.
“The worst pain you will ever experience,” Gregory said.
It did not go well when Gregory stood up on her leg.
“Everything we had been working so hard to save shattered in front of me,” Gregory said.
She made the decision to cut off what was holding her back in life.
“I called it a bad boyfriend, and I needed to get it out of my life for good,” Gregory said.
She had a break-up dinner and a final manicure before having her leg amputated on Nov. 10, 2014.
“When I woke up, I had such peace in my heart about making that decision,” Gregory said. “I was taking back everything that those two brothers tried to take away from me.”
She told the crowd that life is not meant to be easy.
“What I learned more than anything is you have to laugh,” Gregory said.
She named her prosthetic leg Felicia and allowed her friends to set up a leg lamp in her home, like the one from the movie, “A Christmas Story.”
‘Taking my life back’
She has a talking parrot named Capt. Jack Sparrow, and last year, she dressed up as a shark attack victim for Halloween.
After getting her new leg in January 2015, Gregory was committed to running the Boston Marathon, which, at that time, was only a few months away.
Her physical therapist urged her to first focus on walking, but Gregory was committed.
Two weeks before the marathon, Gregory did a 16-mile training run, and reinjured her leg, so, instead of the full marathon, Gregory ran the final 3.2 miles of the race on April 20, 2015.
“It was so rewarding,” Gregory said. “It was taking my life back.”
Gregory testified at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial.
“I looked the bomber in the eye, and he never looked back at me,” Gregory said.
During the sentencing phase of the trial, Gregory spoke about how the Tsarnaevs had affected her life.
“In order to give a victim impact statement, I would have to be a victim,” Gregory said. “I’m definitely not yours, and I’m definitely not your brother’s.”
Gregory went on to write the book “Taking My Life Back: My Story of Faith, Determination and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing.”
Her son is now 10 years old, she is married and the couple has a 15-month-old daughter.
“My life is not a fairy tale, but I love it,” Gregory said.