Rebekah Gregory is quick to say that she’s not a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 on April 15, 2013. She is a survivor, and she marks that horrible day as the start of a new life—an experience she records in Taking My Life Back: My Story of Faith, Determination, and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing (Revell, Apr.).
Gregory and her five-year-old son Noah were just feet away from the first bomb, and Gregory’s legs took the brunt of the shrapnel, protecting Noah. A year and a half later, an 18th and final surgery was the amputation of her left leg.
“Every single thing about me is different than before Boston,” Gregory told PW. “For 26 years I expected to get out of bed and put my feet on the ground. Now I reach for my prosthetic leg or wheelchair, and it’s a daily reminder of how short life can be. Now I live every moment of my life enjoying it to the best of my ability.”
Gregory wishes every day that the bombing never happened, and she is focused on sharing what she learned because of it. “[The book] is less about my personal struggles and more about what each one has taught me: life is short… It was not until a bomb shattered my world that I realized I had been doing everything wrong,” she writes in the book’s introduction.
Taking My Life Back also includes details about Gregory’s life before the bombing. She was born in Kentucky as the daughter of a preacher, but life was difficult: she struggled with an abusive father and then single motherhood. All of the drama seemed to come to a head on that fateful day when she visited Boston to watch the mother of her boyfriend run the race.
Gregory still experiences the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. “I had nightmares 4-5 times a week and woke up screaming,” she said. “Even now, fireworks really get to me and unattended bags at airports can give me a panic attack. Sometimes I have to give myself a pep talk and say no one is going to try to kill me today.”
She is part of what she calls her Boylston Street family, a group of those who also survived the bombing that happened on Boylston Street. “I might have a nightmare so I call or text, and they understand,” she said. “Unless you were there, you can’t wrap your head around it. It’s nice to have the support system.”
These days, Gregory travels around the country to share her story as a motivational speaker. She is mom to Noah and 10-month-old Ryleigh, nicknamed “miracle baby” after Gregory was told by doctors that her injuries would prevent pregnancy. Additionally, Gregory is starting a foundation called Rebekah’s Angels to provide resources for children suffering from PTSD.
“I look at life so differently now,” said Gregory. “We plan things on a whim, but we enjoy that. And who knows what’s in future?”
Vicki Crumpton, executive editor at Revell who acquired Taking My Life Back, recalled the shock that followed the Boston Marathon bombing. “It’s one of those events where you remember what you were doing when you heard about it,” she said. “When the proposal for Rebekah’s book arrived, I knew her story had great power.” Crumpton added that Gregory “has a great passion for sharing her story to inspire others to press on no matter what difficulties they face today.”
Revell is planning a marketing and publicity campaign that includes ad placement in AuthorBuzz, BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Christian Market, as well as appearances on sponsored podcasts such as The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. There will also be a five-city book tour and appearances on national media including the TODAY Show, Inside Edition, Parade, and more.