Rebekah Gregory was at the wrong place at the wrong time. This Louisville native was at the Boston Marathon with her family on April 15, 2013, cheering on runners near the finish line when a bomb exploded right next to her. She was gravely injured and her 5-year-old son was injured as well. Her leg took the brunt of the bomb’s explosion, and after months in the hospital and 17 surgeries on it, she decided to amputate it in November 2014. Her new leg, which she named Felicia, plays a big part in her life now. She feels as though this fateful tragedy showed her life’s purpose. She has become a motivational speaker and author, choosing to find the good in her life. This spring she published a book, Taking My Life Back: My Story of Faith, Determination, and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing. She came through Louisville in April (on her birthday) for a book signing and was greeted by throngs of supporters and friends. Rebekah Gregory is truly inspiring to others, and today we’re thrilled to feature her as our FACE of Louisville.
You are known as Rebekah Gregory — Boston Marathon bombing victim. But there is so much more to you than that. How has that one instant completely changed your life and outlook, more than just your injuries?
In two minutes, life as I knew it was over, and I have been trying to find my new normal ever since. In a lot of ways it has made me a better person. I have the opportunity/platform to potentially help and encourage a lot of people, and I am beyond grateful for that. It gives this awful act of hate and the emotional/physical pain attached more of a purpose in a way. But it has also made me shut down a little too. I no longer feel safe in any social setting, and that’s difficult since my life is so public now. That has taken a lot to get used to, but I’m thankful I have a second chance to do things right. At the end of each day, I’m just blessed to have one more day with my family.
You say that you believe that you “survived this traumatic experience to help others.” Tell us about some of the positive encounters of compassion and support that you have been able to experience as a result of this.
I have seen the hearts and souls of millions across the world in the last four years, and I don’t know how we all would’ve made it without so much support. There are so many examples of love and compassion — from simple cards, to homemade soup in the hospital and now being able to travel across the world hearing other people’s stories and sharing my own. To use the word humbling is an understatement. Now all I want to do is use my life to give that back 10-fold.
You are an author and a motivational speaker now. What is the hardest part of this career? What is the easiest?
The hardest part of my career now is feeling worthy of doing it. I am so honored that anyone would want to hire me to speak. To know I have been doing it for almost three years full time is just a huge blessing and something that still blows my mind. It’s one of those things that will never be easy because of what I am having to rehash every time I get on stage, but it is also something that doesn’t even feel like work because of how passionate I have become about each event I get to be a part of. I walk away better, because of each person I get to meet on this journey. That is hands down the best part of the job.
How are you different from the Rebekah who grew up here in Louisville? How are you the same?
I feel like I’m very different because I have grown up a lot. This experience has made me treasure each and every moment, and I no longer worry about the small stuff — because in reality everything we worry about is pretty small. I’m the same because I’ll always just be a girl from Kentucky with big dreams and a love for life. No matter how much of my security was lost that day, so many people remind me constantly that there is still so much good in the world. Because of that, I will continue to love my life and this great country.
What’s next on the horizon for you personally and professionally?
We have learned to live life in the moment and not make so many plans these days. Right now, I am very happy both personally and professionally. I have an amazing husband, two beautiful children and a fantastic career. I really couldn’t ask for more than that, but we will feel blessed with whatever comes our way. I am also really excited to launch my foundation, Rebekah’s Angels, which has been in the works for a few years. We will provide funding and resources to children with PTSD due to trauma, and we are so excited to get it up and running.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a new-found love for cooking. When I was in my early 20s, it was something I hated doing, and now I love it so much that I am even considering culinary school.
What are three words that describe you?
Adventurous, goofy, passionate
What advice do you treasure?
“Never lose sight of where you’re going, but don’t forget who you are and where you came from.”
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my ___________.
Toes painted! It doesn’t matter if five of them are fake. :)
Where can we find you hanging out around town when you come back to Louisville?
If I’m in town, you can find me with my sister, cousin or best friends. A portion of my heart is still in Kentucky, and I miss everyone terribly.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Derby will always be my favorite thing, and we try to get back as often as we can for it or at least have a Derby party at our house in Texas.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What are three of your favorite things, aside from faith, family and friends?
Traveling, my new water leg “Ariel,” and working out with my husband
Want to be inspired? Read about more amazing local women who are making a difference in our community in our FACES archives.