14 Incredible Boston Bombing Survivors & What They’re Doing Almost Two Years Later

Marathon runners are known for their strength and resilience, and no athletes exemplify these traits more than the survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing that left a city devastated but defiant. More than a year after the deadly attacks, suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is finally facing a jury for his part in the terrorist plot. And although the nation will undoubtedly be reminded of the horror and violence that ransacked the streets of Boston that fateful Monday morning, we should also remember the incredible stories of survival after the Boston Bombing that emerged even from the debris of destruction.

While the lives of Krystle Campbell, 29, Lu Lingzi, 23, and Martin Richard, 8, were lost on April 15, 2013, more than 260 others (16 of whom lost limbs in the bombing) lived through the tragedy, and have continued to lead inspired and determined lives in remembrance of the three individuals who were unable to do so themselves. And for the following survivors, the term Boston Strong is more than a motto, it's a way of life.

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Heather Abbott

When the first bomb exploded in Boston on Patriot’s Day, Heather Abbott, a 38-year-old Rhode Islander, was waiting in line to get into the bar, Forum, on busy Boylston Street. She and her friends decided to leave Fenway Park early after watching the Red Sox win the Patriots' Day game with a decisive victory, and were en route to celebrate when they heard the blast. Abbott tried to make her way to safety, but was unable to get inside before the second bomb went off and sent a piece of shrapnel into her foot. ”I heard a big bang and saw people screaming and panicked,” she told the Washington Post, and after being injured, remembered thinking, ”Who would help me now?”

As it turned out, several people would help her, as was the case for many survivors that day. Her friends gathered around her, dragging her to cover and creating makeshift tourniquets out of a belt. ”My friends kept saying, ‘We won’t leave you,’” Abbott recalled, and they never did.

Though Abbott lost a leg as a result of her injuries, she certainly hasn’t missed a step in the days since. In fact, Abbott owns her prosthetic leg, making fashion statements in her 4-inch stilettos. Speaking with NPR in 2014, the survivor said, ”Sometimes, I think: Why am I doing this to myself? Because I could just wear regular flat shoes. I don’t want to give things up that I love to do, so I’m going to get used to it and figure it out.

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Lee Ann Yanni

As a physical therapist, 32-year-old Lee Ann Yanni knew that the injuries she sustained in the bombing were not good. She and her husband were not participating in the marathon that year, but were cheering runners on as spectators at the finish line when the bombs exploded. She suffered an open leg fracture, and as she looked down at her leg, she could see that shrapnel had ripped apart muscle and tendon. It was unclear if she’d ever walk, much less run, again.

But this was not an acceptable option for Yanni, whose visit to the Boston Marathon that year was in anticipation of the upcoming Chicago Marathon in October. And while it seemed unlikely that after three surgeries, two lost leg muscles, not to mention a ruptured eardrum and nerve damage, Yanni would be in any position to move, much less run a marathon, she refused to be dissuaded from her goal. And even though she couldn’t walk for nearly 6 weeks, she successfully trained for and completed the Chicago Marathon just a few months later in 5 hours and 44 minutes.

But then, she set her sights on an even bigger challenge: Boston. And last year, she finished that one too.

Jarrod Clowery

One of the members of the so-called “Stoneham 6,” a group of six friends who grew up together in Stoneham, Massachusetts, Jarrod Clowery and his childhood buddies met outside Forum restaurant to cheer on a friend crossing the finish line. The first bomb exploded about a block away from them, and the group huddled together, unaware that they were mere feet away from the second device. Moments later, another blast shook the streets of Boston, and Clowery, a 36-year-old carpenter and former professional pool player, was scorched by second-degree burns and riddled with shrapnel like pellets and nails.

But worse than the pain was the enormity of the fear and guilt Clowery felt for his friends. As he looked over moments after the explosion, he told CNN, “I thought all my friends were dead. How the hell am I alive? I was standing two feet from J.P. and Paul. And then everything was a bloody mangled mess. There were chunks of people everywhere and there I am standing. It was dreamlike.”

But his friends survived, and though some lost limbs, have never allowed Clowery to feel any sort of guilt whatsoever. And that, he says, has helped him find a better place. Now, nearly two years after the tragedy, Clowery is an author and a motivational speaker, and says that the bombing helped him discover a “new purpose” in his life. He’s started the “Hero’s Hearts Foundation” in order to honor “everyday heroes” and has also championed an anti-bullying campaign in schools.

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Paul & JP Norden

Brothers Paul & JP Norden have shared a lot in life, but were bonded in tragedy when both lost their right legs at the Boston Marathon. Friends of Jarrod Clowery, the two men were also there with JP’s girlfriend Jacqui Webb and fellow friends James “Bim” Costello, Marc Fucarile — the “Stoneham 6.” When the first bomb exploded, Paul pushed his girlfriend to safety, making sure that she got out of the street. But when the second bomb exploded, the brothers weren’t so lucky — each of them realized that they were missing a leg.

“You could just see bodies on the ground everywhere, people everywhere. You could just smell, I guess it was blood and burned clothes,” JP told CNN. The brothers were separated and taken to different hospitals, where they were both treated for serious injuries. Paul’s wounds were even more egregious, and he was the last of the bombing victims taken off the critical condition list. He lay in a coma for a week, but the Norden family kept this information from his brother, not wanting to worry him. When the brothers were finally reunited, it was an emotional meeting. Since, the two have written a book together about their experiences, and Paul is now engaged to Jacqui Webb. Her uncle, William Webb, credits her survival to her fiancee. Said Webb to the Post, ”We’re just very happy and proud that somebody did that for my niece. As long as he lives we are there for him. Whatever he needs.”

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Marc Fucarile

When Marc Fucarile married his high school sweetheart in April 2014, his biggest goal was to walk down the aisle after losing a leg to the bombing. And as luck (and a lot of determination and hard work) would have it, he managed to do just that. Another member of the “Stoneham 6,” Fucarile sustained multiple injuries after the second blast and was the last of the bombing patients to leave the hospital.

But he emerged from the incident stronger than ever, and far from running from the events of April 15, 2013, he and his wife (and mother of his child), Jen Regan, have fully embraced the Boston Marathon as part of their identities. The theme colors of their April wedding were blue and gold in remembrance of the race, and true to their Bostonian heritage, they left their reception on a Duck Boat.

James “Bim” Costello

In 2013, the final member of the Stoneham 6, James Costello, became the subject of a now-iconic photo of the Boston Bombing, in which the 31-year-old was pictured staggering down Boylston Street with his clothes in tatters. A year later, a much more joyous photo became the center of attention — that of his marriage to his nurse and real-life guardian angel, Krista D’Agostino. After undergoing numerous surgeries to treat the burns, nail punctures, and other injuries he suffered as a result of the explosions, Costello was sent to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

There, he met the love of his life. On a Facebook post, Costello wrote, “After sharing a handful of conversations I realized not only how beautiful she was but also what a kind heart she had. I somehow convinced her to attend a benefit with me, which turned into a few dates, which turned into a few inseparable months.” After eight months, the survivor proposed to his nurse in Lyon, France, and in August 2014, the two were wed.

While there was no fairytale beginning for the couple, their ending is about as perfect as perfect can be. Said Costello, ”I now realize why I was involved in the tragedy. It was to meet my best friend and the love of my life.”

David Yepez

David Yepez is a fighter. Just 15 when he was injured by the bombs at the Boston Marathon, the teenager was near the finish line with his mother and father waiting for a family friend to finish the race. That was when the first bomb went off, and moments later, he was struck by the shrapnel of the second. His father, then 42-year-old Luis Yepez, told the Post, of the explosion, ”The scenery just changes completely to one of just complete horror and evil.” A large metal piece of evil was lodged in David’s leg, and he also had second-degree burns and a torn eardrum.

Today, the 16-year-old wrestler still has tinnitus, a ringing in his ears that resulted from the blast, but that is one of the few physical reminders of his injuries. Otherwise, the teenager is a determined athlete and an incredible competitor. And more importantly, he is grateful for the very opportunity to participate in sports. His coach told the Boston Globe, ”That mental toughness that he showed through the whole thing is what you teach a wrestler. When you’re down don’t give up. Keep battling.

Kaitlynn Cates

Kaitlynn Cates, 25, was a star tennis player cheering on her friend when the first bomb sent her flying to the ground and severely injured her leg. As bodies continued to fall around and on top of her, she tried to crawl away to safety, and was assisted by fellow bystanders who ultimately managed to get her to a hospital within 10 minutes — a true testament to the sheer humanity that was on display that Monday morning. Though she came awfully close to losing her leg (doctors had to take 30 percent of her calf), in late 2014 she was finally cleared to play tennis once again.

She found herself back on the courts in September, this time as a coach, attempting to pass on the skills she’d so deftly acquired over a lifetime of practice. Students from Mashpee High School got to spend time with the athlete, and told a local news station that Cates’ very presence was a powerful lesson. “I think it’s really inspiring, how nothing can stop you,” said Jeff Demanche. His teammate Alex Westcott added, “It’s just really cool to see her out there playing.”

Adrianne Haslet-Davis & Adam Davis

Adam Davis had just returned from Afghanistan when he was struck by a bomb in Boston. A member of the Air Force, he and his wife Adrianne were just feet away from the second bomb, and when it exploded, both were instantly thrown to the ground. While both of them were injured, Adrianne knew that something was very wrong with her foot, and her husband's horrified screams cemented her worst fears. “I remember him picking up my foot and looking and just screaming a scream that you never want to hear a loved one scream,” she told CNN.

While losing a limb would be traumatic for anyone, Adrianne, a lifetime ballroom dancer, was particularly affected by the loss of her leg. But award-winning dancers don’t let prosthetics stand in the way of their passions, and Adrianne vowed that she would return to the dance floor sooner rather than later. And by April 2014, she had returned to the stage, beautiful, graceful and elegant as ever. In addition to maintaining her dancing, Adrianne Davis has also become a fierce advocate for other amputees, and refuses to see herself as a victim. She told CNN, ”A victim … means that I somehow belong to somebody or I’m suffering because of him and I’m not suffering. I’m thriving. I am a survivor.”

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Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes

Jessica Kensky, then 32, and Patrick Downes, then 29, had recently gotten married and shared a passion for running. Downes had previously run in the Boston Marathon himself, and was eager to congratulate the participants as they crossed the finish line. But when the bombs exploded, both Kensky and Downes lost a leg, but not their drive and athletic prowess. Kensky, an oncology nurse, and Downes, a psychology Ph.D., competed just one year later in the Handcycle Division of the Boston Marathon, where she finished in first place amongst women and he finished in 17th amongst the men.

This time, rather than standing together at the finish line, they crossed it hand in hand, finishing with identical times, more a team than ever.

Aaron Hern

11-year-old Aaron Hern was standing next to 8-year-old Martin Richard when the second bomb exploded. It tore into Hern’s leg and killed Richard. When he fell, Hern lay staying at the 8-year-old’s body for several excruciating minutes before he was transported to safety. His father said Hern’s injury ”looked like a war wound,” and for the athletic 11-year-old, the deep gashes in his thigh could have presented a paralyzing obstacle. But after a few intensive surgeries and serious hospital care, the California native, who could already run a sub-six minute mile as a preteen, looked like he was on the road to recovery.

Now, his local newspaper, the Martinez Gazette, often features stories that tell of Hern’s (now 13) athletic achievements. Overcoming fears that he would never be able to walk again, Hern hit a home run at a baseball tournament in Cooperstown, and has led his swim team to numerous victories.

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Karen Rand

When the bombs went off near the finish line, 52-year-old Karen Rand lost her friend Krystle Campbell and her own leg. The two were there to watch Rand’s then-boyfriend, Kevin McWatters, finish what was meant to be his final marathon, but all quickly went awry. Rand was so badly hurt that her leg was ultimately amputated just below the knee, but the real pain stemmed from the death of her best friend, Campbell. “I still talk to her,” Rand told CBS in 2014. “I feel like a terrible thing has happened to me. I lost a leg, but I also lost my friend and it changed me. It made me a more peaceful calm person who really looks at what’s important.”

In order to give back, Rand has taken on considerable charity work at local hospitals, including taking charge of the care of Estefania Salinas, a teenager from El Salvador. After learning that Salinas had been involved in a terrible car accident that had left both her legs severely injured, Rand worked to bring the teen to Boston for better medical care. The two have inspired one another throughout their respective recoveries, and Rand continues to do charity work with Shriners Hospital. She and Kevin were married in March of last year, and he ran his 12th Boston Marathon at the one-year anniversary of the bombings in honor of his new wife.

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The Richard Family

8-year-old Martin Richard was the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings, and a year and a half later, his family is still recovering, both mentally and physically. His sister Jane underwent 14 surgeries and ultimately lost her leg, his mother Denise lost an eye, and his father suffered two burst eardrums. While his older brother, Henry, escaped relatively unscathed, he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

But despite their injuries, the Richard family is moving forward with their lives, and learning how to cope with their loss. Little Jane has taken well to her prosthetic limb, which she has nicknamed “Luvvy,” and the family has taken up a new hobby — sailing. The One Fund has also raised several million dollars for the family, and which has solidly taken care of both Jane and Henry’s college funds. And while nothing will ever erase the pain of Martin’s passing, the Richard family is showing the world just how strong a Bostonian family can be.

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Rebekah Gregory & Pete DiMartino

2015 will be an incredible year for Rebekah DiMartino (nee Gregory), who took her first steps on her prosthetic leg on New Years Eve. After a grueling year and a half and 17 surgeries, the 27-year-old from Texas had her leg amputated in November of last year, calling it ”the best thing that I have ever done for myself.”

Also high on that list must be her marriage to fellow survivor Pete DiMartino, to whom she first said ”I love you” on the day of the bombing. She and Pete attended the Boston Marathon to watch his mother run the race and to meet his six-year-old son. Their relationship only grew stronger after the explosion shattered Rebekah’s leg and Pete’s Achilles tendon, and they were married on April 4, 2014. Pete ran the marathon last year, pushing Rebekah in a wheelchair, and this year, Rebekah plans to run it on her own with her new prosthetic leg. The word “blessed” has been embroidered on the limb, and few couples embody that sentiment better than the DiMartinos.