Rebekah Gregory and her 5-year-old son Noah were spectators at the10 years ago when a bomb exploded only a few feet from them. Gregory shielded Noah with her body. She suffered severe injuries and eventually had her left leg amputated.
Gregory shares a letter with her younger self, reflecting on that day, her resilience and her dedication to aiding others in the "CBS Mornings" series "Note to Self."
Dear 10-year-old Rebekah,
Right now, you are sitting on the school sidewalk with a suitcase beside you, waiting for your dad to pick you up. You feel embarrassed and abandoned because he didn't show up, again. His abuse is not your fault and I wish I could take away your pain, but I can't.
What you will learn many years from now is that the hurt you feel will fade away, but the impact from it will become your legacy. For now, call your mom, and she'll be there. She always will be and for many years to come. While you wait, why not make your sisters laugh like you're good at? You're going to need that humor later on when you don't have a leg to stand on.
I can't promise it's going to be easy, Rebekah. Some challenges you'll bring on yourself, and others you will have zero control over.
Before you know it, you will be a mom at just 20 years old. You will have no clue what you're doing, but your son Noah will give you a purpose that you've never experienced before. You will grow up together, and he will teach you, make you a better person and save you time and time again.
By your mid-twenties, you will feel stability and happiness. You and Noah will have a beautiful home in Texas, your career will be thriving, and for your 26th birthday, you will travel to Boston to attend the marathon with a guy you've been seeing, who you will later marry. That day in 2013 will change the trajectory of your entire life.
When Noah is sitting down on your feet, a bomb will explode less than 3 feet behind you and your body will shield him from the shrapnel. It's a lot to take in, I know.
As you navigate through the ups and downs of your recovery, it will be a lot. You will undergo 76 operations. You'll lose your left leg below the knee, your grandparents, your fairytale marriage after tragedy, any sense of normalcy. But what you will gain, will be indescribable.
You will learn to adapt to a new normal and do things you never knew you were capable of like running in the Boston Marathon on a prosthetic leg and confronting the remaining bomber in federal court.
You will look him in the eyes and tell him that you are not his victim and you will promise that you will use your time left to make the world a better place.
When you least expect it, you will reconnect with and marry your college sweetheart, and he will be your best friend. Together, you will fulfill the promise you made in court by starting a charity called "Rebekah's Angels," where you will fund trauma therapy for nearly 500 families in the first five years.
You will have a miracle baby named Ryleigh, a little girl that no one thought you'd have with all your injuries from Boston.
Despite her early entrance into the world and her stint in the NICU, she will be perfect. She is a fighter, just like her mom.
Every day when you wake up, you will reach for a prosthetic leg or a wheelchair, but you will remain so thankful. You will have a deeper understanding that life is fleeting, and you will soak up every single moment, grateful to be alive with the family you fought hard for.
Your children are so very loved, Rebekah. Ryleigh is the daddy's girl that you always wanted to be. You love being their mom.
With the wisdom that you have gained, you will travel the world sharing your story and write that book you are dreaming about. You'll realize every twist and turn is necessary to get to where you are and sometimes the most broken parts of life lead us to the most beautiful chapters.
Now, do you see why I can't scoop you off that sidewalk? All that pain is a part of the recipe for the good stuff. And as long as you wake up with that beat in your chest and air in your lungs, you have so much purpose.
So do your best to keep surviving right now so that you can fully live later. Soon, every broken piece of you WILL heal, and you will take your life back because you are a survivor and no one can ever take that away from you.
Your older, wiser self
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