'Life blew up in my face:' Boston Marathon bombing survivor recounts experience for Florence crowd

'Life blew up in my face:' Boston Marathon bombing survivor recounts experience for Florence crowd

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – If Rebekah Gregory's then-5-year-old son, Noah, had been standing, he would have died.

Instead, the young mother's body took the brunt of the explosion and ensured her son would live.

Both were on the sidelines during the 2013 Boston Marathon, watching the runners and eating chocolate-covered pretzels. They were unaware that they were standing three feet away from one of the two bombs that exploded 12 seconds apart, killing three people, injuring more than 250 and leaving 17 as amputees.

Gregory was one of the latter. She lost her left leg at the age of 26 as a result of the explosion.

It was an experience she recounted, as well as a message of hope, during "Moving Forward: A Survivor's Journey," held Thursday at Florence's SiMT building. It was part of the Carolinas Hospital System's Healthy Women Anniversary Event.

After the bombing, Gregory woke up in a Massachusetts hospital. She told the Florence audience of roughly 150 people there was one question running through her mind: "How do I move on from here?"

"Isn't that how everything happens?" Gregory said "Back on the sidelines of life, and then it just explodes in your face."

She said she remembers laying on the sidewalk after the blast, surrounded by shrapnel, bones and the body parts of other victims.

Gregory recounted that her body was burning and she felt helpless because she could hear her son, now 9, calling out for her. His mother, however, was unable to reach him.

"(I) wondered why I did not die on (that) street," she said.

Since the 2013 bombing, Gregory has endured at least 65 surgeries and now uses a prosthetic leg.

While the physical wounds were severe, she discovered it was the emotional pain that was harder to endure.

"My reality was every single car that passed us, I thought someone was going to kill us," Gregory said. "How in the world am I going to live the rest of my life like this?"

What Gregory ultimately realized was "life is beautiful." She noted that her son survived and she found the strength to continue on.

That means sharing her experience with others.

"The decision to recount the experience in a public speaking role is difficult because there are some days where I don't want to put on a fake leg, don't want to get on an airplane to go speak to people," Gregory said. "But it's more the emotion of it and the responsibility I feel, that because I've been through something like this, I need to share my story in hopes that somebody else might benefit from it and somebody else might gain encouragement or hope or inspiration.

It's just one part of Gregory's second chapter of life. Another is her belief in the phrase that "with every new day comes new hope."

"(I have a) daily reminder that life is precious and life is short," she said. "(It's all) because life blew up in my face."

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