TOWSON, Md. — It was April 15, 2013. Erika Brannock, 29, was in Boston to watch her mother compete in her first Boston Marathon.
The trip was a Christmas present from her mother and stepfather, and she found a spot a few blocks away from the finish line — near the railing — to see her mother run by.
Brannock, a preschool teacher from Towson, Maryland, was standing with her sister and brother-in-law when they decided to move closer to the finish line.
It was there, near the railing, that a bomb exploded.
“I didn’t actually hear the bomb go off,” Brannock recalls, “and I think that was because my eardrums were blown out so quickly.”
Brannock was on the ground when she regained consciousness. She saw black smoke, heard sirens and people screaming. Brannock thought her leg was broken at first, but her injuries were a lot more serious.
“I touched my leg and I felt warm flesh and I pulled my hand back up and it was covered in blood,” she says.
Then there was a white light. A tug. That’s when she began talking to God: “I said ‘I’m not ready to go; you’re not going to take me; you’re going to find me help.'”
Moments later, another spectator — Amanda North — came to her with medical crews to work on her injuries.
“She took her belt off and they wrapped it around my leg and put me on a gurney,” Brannock says.
From there, she was rushed to the operating room, but blacks out again in an elevator at the hospital. Her blood pressure dropped so low that doctors had to resuscitate her.
Brannock woke up on the operating table, but no one told her what happened.
The next day, Brannock communicated by writing messages on paper to her mother. She asked her mother about her leg and “she looked at me and said ‘they had to amputate your leg,’ and I just started crying.”
Brannock spent 50 days in the hospital. She says the support of her family fueled her recovery. Humor helped as well. Brannock says she joked with nurses and doctors about her situation and the “half-priced pedicures and good parking” she will soon receive.
But the road to recovery was tough.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” Brannock said. “I knew [it] wasn’t ever going to be the same, but I wasn’t going to let it defeat me.”
Brannock’s hospital stay was the longest of any survivor of the Boston Marathon bombings. After 21 surgeries, her recovery continues. She now has a prosthetic leg that allows her to walk again.
Things are getting better she says. She can drive, recently bought her own home and is close to finishing a graduate degree in early childhood studies. Financial support for Brannock continues to pour in to help with the many medical bills she will face in the days and years to come.
Brannock says traumatic events such as this change your life, “but doesn’t have to change who you are.
“You’re going to have dark days. Those are going to happen,” Brannock continues. “It’s dealing with them and coming out of them, so you don’t get stuck in that state.”
She doesn’t want to discuss the trial of the man who is accused of planning the attack. Brannock just wants to share her story in hopes of inspiring others, who may find themselves in a similar fight.