FULSHEAR (Covering Katy)—So everyone is clear, Fulshear resident Rebekah Gregory is not a victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. A better, more accurate term, is survivor.
Gregory has written a book, Taking My Life Back, that shares her experiences.
Wrong time, wrong place
On April 15, 2013, Gregory and her young son, Noah, were among the bystanders supporting the runners in the Boston Marathon. Noah was standing in front of Gregory, not far from where one of the two bombs exploded.
Gregory was one of 280 people injured. Five people, including two police officers, died as a result of the bombing and the subsequent manhunt for the terrorists.
Gregory was taken to a hospital. Her mother, Tina, was there to help.
“She was a big part of the whole recovery,” Gregory said. “She was with me for 56 straight days in the hospital,” Greogry said. “She never left my side.”
Ultimately, Gregory’s left leg was amputated and she received a prosthetic leg. Noah, meanwhile, suffered only a minor injury.
Two Russian-born brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were the bombers. Tamerian Tsarnaev was killed following a standoff with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured, tried, and is now on death row.
Gregory testified at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial.
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t try to help get a conviction,” she said. “It’s important that he’s behind bars and will never be able to do this to someone else. My concern was keeping people safe. He doesn’t need to be on the streets, and he needs to be held accountable for the things that he did do.”
As for his receiving the death sentence, she said it wasn’t her judgment to make.
Chronicling her experiences
Gregory described herself as always being a writer. Growing up, she always kept a journal, documenting both the good and bad things that happened in her life.
“When I was 10 years old, I made myself a promise to write and publish a book by age 30,” she said. “The book came out a couple of days prior to my birthday (April 12). That I got an opportunity to write a book is pretty incredible.”
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, published the book. Baker Publishing Group is a publisher of Christian and inspirational books.
Gregory has just returned from her book tour.
“The tour has been amazing and exhausting all at the same time,” she said. She appeared on several television shows, including Today, Fox and Friends, and Good Morning Britain.
At one point, she said, she gave 53 interviews over a three-day period.
“It was absolutely insane,” she said. “We travelled to Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Louisville, and ended in Boston. It was two weeks of non-stop activities, maybe sleeping three hours a night if you’re lucky.”
She has also done a book signing at Katy Budget Books, 2450 Fry Road. She said she is uncertain of any future local events, but is hopeful that some will be scheduled.
Life after Boston
Life goes on for everyone. For Gregory, her book and the speaking engagements resulting from it are positive steps forward.
Other steps are more about simply coping. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“It’s surprising to a lot of people because the biggest misconception is that we were knocked unconscious and don’t remember,” she said. “I remember it all. I couldn’t see my own legs. Body parts were all around me. It really was a war scene. Those are the images I can’t get out of my head. There are times when I’m scared to leave the house, or be in big crowds. It’s part of my life, for sure.”
Yet Gregory doesn’t take those steps alone. Two of her friends were portrayed in the movie Patriot’s Day, which was released in January. She said she was glad to support her friends, and watched the movie, though it was a difficult experience for her.
“It’s hard to watch something that you’ve lived through,” Gregory said.
She said the film was pretty accurate, though she had concerns that the film humanized the Tsarnev brothers too much.
Gregory continues to follow the Boston Marathon, and said she even hopes to run in it one day. (In recent years, before her prosthesis, she would be pushed across the finish line in her wheelchair.) On her book tour, her Boston book signing event took place at the Barnes and Noble on Boylston Street, near where she was standing on that fateful day.
It led to a poignant moment for Gregory. After the trial ended, she said she wished she could have hugged each of the jurors.
“One of the jurors came up to me and said, ‘Now you can get your hug,’” she said, adding that it was a emotional, amazing moment.
One might say that things came full circle that day.
“It’s a great city,” she said of Boston. “We enjoy it.”
The Boston book signing was the last stop of her tour. At that point, Gregory said, she had to decide whether to remain in town for the marathon, which took place Monday, or return home to Texas.
Like many Texans, Gregory wasn’t born here but got here as fast as she could. Originally from Kentucky, her parents had moved here six years ago, and Gregory, then a single mother, decided to join them.
Following the bombing, Gregory was briefly married to a fellow survivor, which she described as the greatest mistake of her life. But things would soon turn around in a good way when she reunited with her college sweetheart.
They had met as students at Eastern Kentucky University, but she dropped out of school to help care for her sister, who was having health issues. Rebekah and Chris lost touch. But they had a mutual friend through Facebook, and when Rebekah, now living in Texas, learned that Chris was coming to visit Houston on business, she suggested to the friend that the three of them have dinner.
“We realized nothing had changed between us,” Gregory said. “We had the same connection as before. Four months later, we were married on the beach in Jamaica. It’s been wonderful since.”
The couple now have a daughter, Ryleigh, who was celebrating her first Easter Sunday. Choosing to return home for that, instead of staying for the marathon, was an easy choice.
“I love Texas,” she said. “Everybody is friendly for the most part. It’s a big city but slower pace of life. It’s a great place to raise kids, so we’re really blessed.”