April 14, 2014 at 10:51 AM ET
As part of TODAY's Shine a Light series, a campaign to support worthy causes throughout the year, Natalie has chosen to shine a light on those still recovering from the horrific events of last year's Boston Marathon.
If you want to help Natalie fundraise or donate to the One Fund or Challenged Athletes Foundation, visit her fundraising page at Crowdrise.com/Natalie.
Boston marathon bombing survivors Heather Abbott and Marc Fucarile vividly remember the terror they felt when explosions went off at the finish line exactly one year ago.
“You could hear the panic in everybody around you, and I’m like ‘I’m not gonna make it,’" Fucarile, 35, told TODAY.
But Abbott, 39, and Fucarile did make it — though they each lost a leg as a result of the blast that killed three and left hundreds of others injured.
Abbott, a human resources manager, didn’t lose her foot immediately, but after surgery, it became apparent that she would never walk normally again with her damaged leg.
“It was either going to be, live my life in a wheelchair in pain with a possibility of walking once in a while, or get back to my regular life and have a prosthetic leg,” she said.
Fucarile, a driver for a roofing company, recognized what had happened to him right away. “I knew in the ambulance ride that I was missing a leg,” he said.
Little did they know that as they and many other survivors began a long recovery process in the hospital, a trio of Emerson college students — Nick Reynolds, Chris Dobens and Lane Brenner — were looking into ways that they could help.
The students came up with the “Boston Strong” campaign, which has sold over 65,000 T-shirts and raised $1 million since the tragedy. All proceeds have gone directly to the One Fund, an organization that has collected and given out nearly $61 million to over 230 victims in the wake of the tragedy.
It was a simple idea with big results. The Emerson students were hoping to sell just 110 T-shirts that first week — instead, they sold over 37,000.
“It’s just that idea that anyone can do anything,” Dobens told TODAY. “And a lot of the time as we grow up, people tend not to believe that... Just to disprove that is unbelievable.”
“The One Fund has been an integral part of easing my mind relating to the cost of prosthetics,” Abbott said. “It won’t cover the cost completely but it certainly is a big help.”
The recovery process is far from over for Fucarile, who must still undergo multiple surgeries and possibly the amputation of his other foot. But he’s hopeful that one day soon he’ll live a “normal life” again and have at least one more child.
“I see a lot of light in my future,” he said.
Abbott and Fucarile are enormously grateful for all the support they’ve received, much of it from complete strangers. They were finally able to meet the “Boston Strong” team, who had never met any of the survivors they raised funds for, on Monday’s TODAY for the one year anniversary of the bombings.
Like Fucarile, Abbott is eagerly looking to the future — and hopes her story will inspire others in the midst of tragedy.
“I think that I have proven to myself that hope exists and other people helped me believe that,” Abbott said. “And I want now to show people who might be feeling hopeless that there is hope.”