Bombing Survivor Rebekah Gregory On Marathon: 'I Took My Life Back Today'
BOSTON -- Everything went wrong for Boston bombing amputee Rebekah Gregory on Marathon Monday. Pain was expected -- even intense pain -- but soon after she started to run at mile 23 in Brookline, she twisted her knee, right above the prosthetic running blade she was wearing. The pain was excruciating, made worse by the cold and chilly day and the steady rainfall that was testing even veteran marathoners. She pushed on, but when it was just too much to take, she accepted a ride in a police car to mile 25.
Gregory's goal to run had been cemented when she chose to have her leg amputated late last year, after 17 surgeries to try to save it had failed. She was determined to cross the finish line of this year's marathon -- determined to run, on her own, past the spot where she'd almost died two years ago. When last week a doctor told her not to run the entire distance because of the damage it would cause her leg, she revised her plans to the last 3½ miles of the race.
At mile 25 Gregory began to run again, and the Boston crowd embraced her fully. She was hard to miss as she ran alongside her trainer, Artis Thompson III, a fellow amputee from a motorcycle accident, and even spectators unfamiliar with her story were compelled to cheer as she crossed the finish line.
We've followed Gregory since she decided to run, and on marathon day we talked to her and many of her support team, a crowd of friends and family in blue "Rebekah Strong" T-shirts. Here's what they had to say.
How did you feel crossing the finish line?
It wasn't exactly what I wanted to do and I didn't run as far as I wanted to run, but I still did what I came here to do and I have to be proud of myself for that. I took my life back today. I want people to know that there's life after bad things that happen to you. And if I can be someone's hope or inspiration, that's what I want to do.
How much pain are you in?
I'm in so much pain. I twisted my knee really bad, and the rain is really hard because my knee is so swollen. It felt like everything was against me today, from the weather to the pain in my leg. But it was still an incredible feeling to cross that finish line, running. Better than I imagined. And I crossed the finish line -- that's what's important.
The media surrounded you when you finished. Did you expect that kind of reaction?
I've seen support from so many all over the world, so it doesn't surprise me, but I'm still so humbled every time that it happens. The atmosphere here and the people screaming my name -- it was incredible. There are no words.
Are you going to run again next year?
Yes, next year I'm going to run the whole thing. Hopefully it won't be raining!
Artis Thompson, III, Gregory's trainer
When did you decide to run with Rebekah?
Well, initially, I got excited and told Rebekah that I'd run with her, but then the next day I sort of realized what I had said and I regretted that. I'm not a runner. But she is very convincing.
She's been in a lot of pain today as she ran. Is it as painful for you, three years after you lost your leg?
I do have pain but I have a skin graft, so it's a little bit different. The skin is sensitive, and it can be painful, but I can usually handle it. It varies from day to day. But yes, it can vary from mild -- like a sore thumb -- to feeling like my leg is getting crushed. Today was not so bad for me, I'm fine. But it was hard for her.
Are you concerned about slipping when it's raining outside, like today?
Yes, traction was my major concern. We know how to step to keep our footing, and know the blades very well to avoid falling, but yes, it can be a problem and adds more stress.
Did you guys have a pump-up song for the day?
Rebekah's is "Uptown Funk," but I can't say that I listened to that. A friend of mine is a local rapper and he has his own song called "Everywhere I Go," and that's what I listened to.
Is this the first race you've run in?
I ran track in high school, but this was my first as an amputee.
Tim and Tina Gregory, Rebekah's parents
How did it feel to watch Rebekah run?
Tim: It felt really good. She showed her determination, her grit and her courage and strength. In the past two years she's really overcome a lot, and last year she was nowhere near running. She's really grown.
Tina: I didn't expect it to be that emotional, but when I saw her running across that finish line, I was so ... so happy. It's hard to find the right words. I was really happy for her.
Tim: I was very proud, and it was so exciting. She's become our inspiration.
Naomi Stone, Rebekah's rehabilitation nurse
How did you meet Rebekah?
I was one of her primary nurses at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I was there the day she came out of the ICU, to my floor. I work on the trauma unit, and all of the survivors came there after the ICU.
I've been a nurse for a really long time, and this was different. We get trauma victims, like from accidents and crashes, but this was unlike anything I've ever seen. Never in a million years would you expect to see blast injuries in Boston. We were learning as we went.
What was special about Rebekah?
You become very close when you take care of someone like that. She was so amazing, and her family was so amazing. Never once was she like, 'Woe is me, this sucks.' You want to be there and take care of someone like that and see them get better. Now we are very close friends.
How does it feel today to watch her running?
I feel like this day has been such a long time coming. She took her situation and made it into something great. And that takes a lot of courage. Not many people are able to do that.