Image: 2014 B.A.A. Boston Marathon
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TODAY   |  April 22, 2014

Boston marathon survivor: ‘We got our city back’

In the latest edition of TODAY’s “Shine a Light” series, Natalie Morales follows the stories of Carmen Acabbo, her sister, Celeste Corcoran, and Celeste’s daughter Sydney, and their emotional reunion at the finish line of this year’s race.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> let us begin this half-hour with our ongoing "shine a light" campaign. the emotional 118th running of the boston marathon . natalie got the chance to experience it firsthand, and she's back to work this morning. a little slow.

>> a little slow. a little sore. but it was so worth it. so inspiring to see so many courageous faces, so many great stories all along the way battling mile after mile to take back a race that means so much to that city. and for the victims of last year's bombings, it was one more step toward healing. and i was there for an incredible reunion at the finish line for one family i've come to know and cherish. nearly 36,000 runners gathered in the little rural massachusetts town of hopkinton to take part in history, the oldest and most prestigious road race in the world. but for so many, this year's boston marathon was about so much more than running. carmen okabo was in that crowd again. last year, she was just minutes from competing her first marathon when the bombs went off. carmen 's family was at the finish line , including her sister celeste and niece sydney . both were critically injured. sydney 's femoral artery severed. celeste ultimately lost both of her legs. their recovery began side by side in a boston hospital room. and continues today.

>> i miss my legs. it's plain and simple. and there's nothing anybody can do except hold me, let me cry, and let me work through it.

>> yes!

>> they've been called boston strong.

>> yes!

>> woohoo!

>> they call themselves corcoran strong. but as i've witnessed over the past year, their courage and humor --

>> and she sticks the landing!

>> go beyond labels.

>> the first thing she said when i saw her without her legs for the first time, i just looked at her and she said, i can't believe i didn't see you finish this thing. and of all the things that, you know, you think your sister's going to say the first time you see her, she's just got blown up by a bomb, her legs are gone.

>> what does that tell you about the kind of person she is?

>> well, it does, right. it was almost like, i thought, i think we're going to be okay. like, you know, i knew there was a long road ahead. but that was an encouraging start.

>> an encouraging start to a difficult year that found this family back where it all began. carmen at the starting line , celeste and sydney waiting at the finish.

>> we dreamed of landing this spot and making it a happy place again.

>> it's a happy place .

>> my own run is to honor not only this family, but so many others like them. the boston marathon is a celebration of community. 26.2 miles of cheering fans and hills. the infamous and aptly named heartbreak hill begins at mile 20, just when your body needs it least. but on this day, spirit and perseverance trump heartbreak.

>> come on, let's go.

>> celeste and sydney running over the line in this 118th boston marathon .

>> ordinary care you did it!

>> we did it.

>> tell me, what were you feeling?

>> just overwhelmed. i'm totally overwhelmed.

>> you did it. we did it.

>> i did this for every single person who can't run this race, for whatever reason. they don't win. hate doesn't win. it's always love that wins. and we got our city back. arkansas.

>> and we finally saw carmen finish.

>> and we finally saw her cross the finish line !

>> it's so great. they taught me so much over the last year, and as i was struggling at heartbreak hill , i kept thinking of them at the finish. i kept thinking, if they can do it with what they've been through the past year, and all of the survivors, then i'm going to make it up that hill.

>> how much money did you end up raising with crowd rise?

>> i think over 60,000, plus we get 10,000 from adidas as well.

>> that's fantastic.

>> amazing, and thanks again to all the viewers who were so generous with their donations. really just an incredible achievement by all. and the city dade great job.

>> social media lit up when you ran across the finish line . i was watching social media , and it just blew up with people. she did it! go natalie, go!

>> i was looking at the footage. i saw the pigtails. i was like, that's her.

>> that and the bright orange. couldn't miss me.

>> and the time was amazing. people have been raving about your time. even with your injury.

>> thank you. yeah, that wasn't the part that was hurting.