When they met on April 15 on their way to the hospital, Roseann Sdoia and Marc Fucarile were both fighting for their lives. “She kept me awake, telling me to focus on my fiancée and my kid,” says Fucarile, who lost his right leg that day. They’re still turning to each other, like so many of their fellow survivors – whom PEOPLE photographed on May 30 at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, Mass. “Marc and his family will be in my life forever,” says Sdoia, who also lost a leg. “The new friends I’ve made, they’re all amazing. I’m thankful for them.” Mery Daniel (left) shares that spirit. “I choose to focus on the positive,” she says. “I’m happy to be alive.”
‘I Feel Fantastic’
ROSEANN SDOIA, 45 BOSTON
One of my friends and I had gone to the Red Sox game. We had great seats behind home plate – then left to watch the marathon. I had two friends running that day, so I was tracking them on my phone. When the second bomb went off, the next thing I knew I couldn’t get up. I saw blood coming from my leg, and someone walking around like a zombie, covered in soot. It was like a bad dream.
Today I feel fantastic. I don’t have pain, although I do have phantom sensations. I can’t wait to walk on the beach and to have a drink! I haven’t had one since it happened. I’m dying for a glass of wine.
I’m thankful for my family, friends, everyone. The kid who picked me up off the sidewalk, Shores Salter, he and his family are in my life now. So is the firefighter who took me to the hospital, Mike Materia. We’ve become good friends. He saw a lot that day; we’re trying to help each other get through this.
Everyone tells me that I’m their inspiration—but their support inspires me.
‘I Will Dance Again’
ADRIANNE HASLET, 32 BOSTON
I’m a professional ballroom dancer, so I’m in the studio 45 to 50 hours a week, dancing all day. When I woke up out of surgery, my parents started crying. I said, “Mom, something’s going on with my foot.” It felt asleep, like I couldn’t move it. When I found out, I started punching my legs, I was so angry. I went immediately to the negative: “That’s it, your career is over.” I threw a water bottle, a clipboard and whatever else across the room. They had to hold me down because they were afraid I was going to hurt myself.
The little things are frustrating. I’m fiercely independent, so having people assist me in the shower, for example, was humbling. But I have a lot of support. The fact that people truly believe I’m going to dance again has been a big deal. I’ve had studios from all over the country send pictures with little girls holding signs that say, “We believe in you, Adrianne!” That makes me believe it, especially in the hard moments.
When I stood up for the first time on my new leg May 29, it was crazy emotional. My parents said, “Why are you crying?” I said, “Because I’m standing!” It was an enormous feeling to be upright, using my ballroom posture. Someone said, “Who’re you going to dance with?” and I said, “Dad!” He had tears in his eyes. It was wonderful – so invigorating.
Two Brothers, Recovering Together
J.P. NORDEN, 33, & PAUL NORDEN, 31 STONEHAM, MASS.
J.P.: We were there watching a buddy run. After the second bomb, I looked down: My leg was gone. I wanted to call my family and girlfriend to say I loved them; I thought I was going to die. Then I turned and saw Paul – and his leg is gone too. Everyone’s screaming and I can’t hear, but I can hear him on the phone with our mother.
Paul: I got knocked out for a minute. Then, when I woke up, I saw my leg right next to me.
J.P.: We were at different hospitals so we didn’t see each other for 14 days; he was in a coma for eight of them. I’m real close with my family, but especially with him. We both work in construction and weren’t working before this, so I was with him all the time, every day. We did everything together – a lot of lunch, playing basketball. We’re supercompetitive.
Paul: Recovering together will help. Times when I don’t want to work out and he does, and vice versa, we’ll push each other. If I was doing it alone, it would be a lot more difficult.
J.P.: I can’t wait to walk. Just walk, stand up on my own two feet. I miss it.
Paul: He’s had some setbacks. Now that he’s out of the hospital, I hope every day going forward is smooth for him.
J.P.: I’m wicked proud of Paul. He’s doing awesome.
A Fashionista’s New Outlook
HEATHER ABBOTT, 38 NEWPORT, R.I.
Heather: For the first week, I still had my foot. But eventually the doctors said, “You can keep the foot, but you’ll probably be in a lot of pain; you’ll never run again, and even from a cosmetic standpoint, it won’t look good.” Every doctor recommended I have it amputated and use a prosthetic leg. I wasn’t wrestling with it. I knew my ultimate goal was to function as well or almost as well as I did before this happened.
I don’t know what kind of prosthetic leg I’m going to end up with. I love clothes, shopping, shoes. Shoes fit them differently. When I was in the hospital, Aviva Drescher, one of the Real Housewives of New York, came to visit. She has a prosthetic leg, and it looked just like a real leg. It had veins and birthmarks. Seeing her and speaking to her helped me feel better about what kind of choices I have. It helped me see that some things in life wouldn’t have to change that much. That was a big deal.
I live by myself, and I’m used to being independent. But I was lying on my back recently and heard the doorbell, so I swung out of bed, went to stand up – and went right down! It was a real wake-up call. Now, if my mom isn’t here with me, then one or several of my friends have to be.
The Strength of Family
ERIKA BRANNOCK, 29, BALTIMORE & NICOLE GROSS, 31, CHARLOTTE, N.C.
Nicole: I texted my sister to make her way to the finish line so we could watch our mom finish the race. I got blown away from her. I was scared another bomb would go off and that was how I was going to die – alone. Then I saw my sister lying down. I didn’t know if she was alive or dead.
Erika: We ended up in hospitals across the street from each other. The only way we could see each other was through FaceTime.
Nicole: I remember sobbing over our iPad minis and saying, “I’m just a wreck, and I need my sister.” I could feel Erika’s strength through her voice. That helped me through some of the darker days. [She sustained injuries to both legs, leading to five surgeries. Erika, who lost her left leg above the knee, has undergone 11 operations so far.]
Erika: About three weeks in, my dad helped me surprise Nicole, pushing me across the street. Seeing her sheer determination and how quickly she recovered was inspiring.
Nicole: I have guilt that my little sister’s going through so much. But when our family talks to her, she’s the one consoling us.
Erika: I’m a preschool teacher, so I try to teach my kids not to dwell on things, and that if something bothers them, to move on, go with it, keep going. I figure that if I can’t do that myself, I can’t teach them how to do that. You just have to stay positive.
‘My Leg Doesn’t Define Me’
MERY DANIEL, 31 BOSTON
I didn’t have a decision to make about my leg. It was gone when I woke up. To be frank, it wasn’t that emotional. I mean, it hurt. But in the grand scheme of things, I was just happy to be alive. The doctor woke me after surgery and said, “You’re very lucky because your heart stopped twice.”
So I haven’t cried once. Still, when you lose a leg, you lose your independence. My husband has to help me into the shower. Even simple things are hard, like playing with my 5-year-old daughter or getting my own food. If I’m hungry, I have to decide how I’m going to get to the fridge. My daughter was afraid to come near the leg at first. She keeps talking about bombs and has a few nightmares still. But she’s getting better. Little things that used to annoy me don’t anymore. And having support from so many people helped me. All of this has taught me to really focus on what’s important in life.
He’ll Dance at His Wedding
MARC FUCARILE, 34 STONEHAM, MASS.
Marc: I was unconscious all the way to the hospital. When I knew I was in good hands, I allowed myself to lose it. I woke up three or four days later.
His fiancée, Jennifer Regan: I didn’t know if when he opened his eyes he would remember me or our son Gavin. So I asked him who the most beautiful girl in the world was, and he said me. So I knew he was okay.
Marc: I have a lot more strength and tolerance for pain than I realized. My goal now is to be able to get out of bed and use the toilet, to go for a walk with my son. Even if I’m in a wheelchair, we can go outside and burn some of his 5-year-old energy. My brother was supposed to have his wedding on May 31. He postponed it so I can be up there standing beside him. And Jennifer and I are supposed to be planning our wedding right now. We’ve been engaged since 2007. She’s waited so long. It was always, we’ll get married when she finished school … when we get used to the baby … I just don’t think it’s fair. This was supposed to be our time.
Jennifer: We’ll get married as soon as he’s able to dance. That’s my deal. And I want a nice big wedding now. I deserve it!
Marc: And Gavin, he’ll be my best man.
A Prom Queen & Her Mother Heal
CELESTE CORCORAN, 47 & SYDNEY CORCORAN, 18 LOWELL, MASS.
Celeste: It was the first time my sister Carmen [Acabbo] had ever run the marathon, so I was determined to see her cross the finish line. Then the next second the world literally just exploded.
Sydney: Shrapnel had severed the femoral artery in my right thigh. When I woke up in the hospital, my dad was in the room. I asked him for a pen. I wrote, “Is Mom okay?” When he told me she lost her legs, I cried. Then I wrote, “I thought I was an orphan.” He started crying and kissed my face.
Celeste: When they put us in the same room at the hospital, that was huge. Nothing could’ve been better than to reach across, hold her hand and see her smile.
Sydney: My mom is my best friend. She means the world to me.
Celeste: On May 28 Sydney was crowned prom queen. She looked gorgeous. Now her graduation is coming up. Every milestone like that, it’s like, life goes on. There are times when I’m sad and angry that this had to happen and at the people who did it, but I don’t waste my time on them. Instead I dwell on the fact that my family and friends are around us, that my daughter is alive and that as hard as it is, I’m still alive—I’m still me. And we’re stronger people.