On April 15, 2013, Rebekah Gregory, 27, was watching the race near the finish line on Boylston Street during the Boston Marathon. When a bomb blew up nearby, it blew her into the air and when she landed her leg bones were lying next to her on the sidewalk.
Three people were killed and 260 were injured.
Her 5-year-old son was off nearby searching for rocks. Someone picked up the boy and placed him by his mother. Fortunately, he was not injured.
During the next 18 months, Rebekah required 17 surgeries, including the amputation of her leg. Over time, she learned to walk with a prosthetic limb.
Two Chechen brothers, who had immigrated to the USA as refugees in 2002, had planted pressure-cooker bombs along the Boston Marathon finish line area. The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed days after the bombing. The younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarmaev, 21, faces a total of 30 charges, 17 of which carry the death penalty.
On March 5, 2015, Rebekah Gregory faced Dzhokhar Tsarmaev in a Boston courtroom and read the following statement aloud.
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"Over the last two years, I have seen your face not only in pictures, but in almost every one of my nightmares," she wrote. "You have undoubtedly been my source of fear since April 15th, 2013. (After all, you are one of the men responsible for nearly taking my child, and for the permanent image embedded in my brain of watching someone die.) Up until now, I have been truly scared of you and because of this, fearful of everything else people might be capable of.
"But today, all that changed. Because this afternoon, I got to walk into a courtroom and take my place at the witness stand, just a few feet away from where you were sitting. (I was WALKING. Did you get that?) And today I explained all the horrific details, of how you changed my life, to the people that literally hold YOURS in their hands. That's a little scary right? And this afternoon before going in, I'm not going to lie..my palms were sweaty. And sitting up there talking to the prosecution did make me cry. But today, do you know what else happened? TODAY ... I looked at you right in the face ... and realized I wasn't afraid anymore. And today I realized that sitting across from you was somehow the crazy kind of step forward that I needed all along.
"And I think that's the ironic thing that happens when someone intends something for evil. Because somehow, some way, it always ends up good. But you are a coward. A little boy who wouldn't even look me in the eyes to see that. Because you can't handle the fact that what you tried to destroy, you only made stronger. And if your eyes would've met mine for just one second, you would've also seen that what you 'blew up' really did BLOW UP. Because now you have given me (and the other survivors) a tremendous platform to help others, and essentially do our parts in changing the world for the better.
"So yes ... you did take a part of me. Congratulations you now have a leg up ... literally. But in so many ways, you saved my life. Because now, I am so much more appreciative of every new day I am given. And now, I get to hug my son even tighter than before, blessed that he is THRIVING, despite everything that has happened.
"So now ... while you are sitting in solitary confinement, (awaiting the verdict on your life), I will be actually ENJOYING everything this beautiful world has to offer. And guess what else? I will do so without fear ... of YOU. Because now to me you're a nobody, and it is official that you have lost. So man that really sucks for you bro. I truly hope it was worth it.
"Sincerely," she signed, "someone you shouldn't have messed with."
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Indeed, someone you shouldn't have messed with, for sure.
Quote for the Day -- "The weak fall, but the strong will remain and never go under!" Anne Frank
Bret Burquest is the author of 10 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a couple of dogs and where you never know how strong you are until you have no choice.