NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Ten years ago, Heather Abbott lost her leg in the Boston Marathon Bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds of others. Now, she’s sharing her firsthand account of that day which will forever live in infamy.
On April 15, 2013, Abbott, who lives in Newport, took the train up to Boston for a Red Sox game with friends, then stopped at the marathon afterward. But what came next is something no one could have ever expected.
“I remember seeing the smoke in the air and people start screaming,” she said, recalling the moment the first bomb went off.
“But really before I had the time to react, there was a second explosion right next to where I was standing,” Abbott said. “The next thing I knew, I was catapulted through the open doors of the restaurant.”
“I just remember kind of feeling like in a panic that I needed to get away from where I was and run in the direction the other people were running but my foot felt like it was on fire,” she continued. “I was in tremendous pain and I knew not to look at it and knew I probably couldn’t get up … so I started screaming for help and hoping someone would start and help me.”
And then, her miracle came: Erin Chatham and her husband Matt, a former New England Patriot.
“She took a look at my foot and realized somebody really needed to carry me,” Abbott recalled.
Abbott credits the Chathams with saving her life. But after three surgeries in four days, she had to make a choice.
“Doctors were trying to assess whether they could salvage my leg or not,” she said. “It was pretty damaged, the bones were all shattered in my foot, my heel was completely blown off.”
After many hard discussions with veteran amputees, she made one of the hardest decisions imaginable: having her leg amputated.
But rather than letting that keep her down, she created the Heather Abbott Foundation, which has helped dozens of other amputees across the country, turning tragedy into a ray of hope.
“I started the foundation after I learned the difficulties a lot of amputees have obtaining especially specialized prostheses,” she explained.
Abbott said specialized prosthetics can run anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to upwards of $100,000, and the majority of insurers won’t cover it.
Now, she said the foundation has provided help to more than 100 victims of traumatic injuries.
Abbott has continued to come back to the marathon year after year, hosting a watch party at the finish line to cheer on runners who are raising money to help other amputees.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in the time we have to work on the foundation and it’s been amazing,” Abbott said. “We’ve changed people’s lives.”