The First Dance

The day I learned to stand up, I was lying down.

The sun cradled me warmly on that blissful April morning. Spring was here, and Adam was finally home. It was lonely without him. But I was proud of my prince for defending our nation's skies.

We took a walk to our favorite coffee shop- the coffee shop that meant so much more to us than just decaf lattes. It was the coffee shop where we spent our last moments together before he took off for Afghanistan. Where we talked about what it would be like if he lost a limb. Where we pondered what it would be like if he didn't come back. And now, my husband was home safe; I couldn't ask for anything more.

"It's Marathon Monday," he smiled. "Then what are we waiting for?" I smiled back. We crossed onto Boylston Street, but within seconds my world would change. Forever.

BOOM. I buried my head into his chest, my body shaking uncontrollably, cold fingers gripping his arms, hoping they would save me from the world that came crashing down. "The next one's gonna hit," I cried, "the next one's gonna hit!"

POW. It stabbed my calf like a rusted machete. Teeth biting into its freshest prey. The parched ground quivered as it threw me to the concrete wayside, then showered me with all the gray ash it was made of. A barrage of shrapnel shell pierced the raw flesh covering my bones.

"Adam! Adam, don't leave me! I love you! Adam! Please!" He lay beside me on the drenched sidewalk, but he promised me he'd stay for me. "Not today," he whispered, "not today." I looked down at a beet red waterfall of blood that used to be my left foot. Skin hung in its place.

I lay limp on the white stretcher, no longer the graceful, dazzling ballroom dancer I had known the night before. Instead I was a preschool arts and crafts project: shredded to pieces, lopsided, and taped backed together. A mess. I was a mosaic of the tattered fabric and dried blood of Boston's bravest that day.

"I'm a dancer," I screamed from the pain that struck and the fear that hit me. "You can't take my leg! You have to save my leg!" But it was too late.

My leg was gone. My life was over. And I was never getting it back. Thirty two years of dancing gone. Forever. Gone was my Waltz. Forgotten was my Tango. My Cha Cha a piece of history.

I gazed down. I lost my leg at the finish line, but I tell myself it is only the beginning- the beginning of a journey of patience, of love, of trust, of survival, of comfort, of empowerment, of inspiration, of meaning, of strength, of endurance, of perseverance. Because at that moment, I saw what kind of life I lived as it flashed before my very eyes, and then I realized what kind of life I wanted to live: a life worth living.

I can dance again. I will dance again. I am a ballroom dancer, and no one will take that away from me. My leg is gone, but I am here to stay. Prouder. Braver. Stronger.

I slowly sway to the music at the finish line two years later, with the love of my life standing by my side. I smile, knowing that Evil didn't get the best of me. I will never stop dancing 'till the day that G-d takes me back up, not when hatred pushes me down.

I am not a victim, defined by what happened in my life. I am a survivor, defining how I live my life.

I am a fighter. I am a dancer. I am stronger than the bomb that took my leg.

I am Adrianne.

Dedicated to the memory of the beautiful people who lost their lives in the Boston Marathon Bombing, and to the courage of the fighters who live on to tell their stories.