Taking My Life Back - Part 1 (Transcript)

Dr. Tim Clinton: Hi everyone. This is Dr. Tim Clinton, Executive Director of the James Dobson Family Institute and president of the American Association of Christian Counselors. I wanted to take a moment to let you know, that we here at the James Dobson Family Institute love you and we're praying for you. If you're struggling and need some encouragement, we'd be honored to pray with you. You can call us toll free at (877) 732-6825. Or simply go to, drjamesdobson.org.

Ryan Dobson: Hi, I'm Ryan Dobson. Together with my mom and sister, I want to welcome you to the radio program that celebrates my dad's love of all things family: Family Talk. This month, Family Talk, and the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, will celebrate ten years of being on the air, by going back and airing some of the top rated programs from 2010 to 2019. Today, we have an interview from 2019 with author and speaker Rebekah Gregory. For those who don't recognize her name, Rebekah is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing. She speaks candidly about her horrific memories of that day, and how her faith in God helped her through the trauma. She has her own ministry called Rebekah's Angels, and she does amazing work with kids and trauma.

A quick listener note: some of the content discussed in these interviews is graphic and is intended for mature audiences. Parental discretion is advised. Let's listen now to part one of a two part interview with Rebekah Gregory.

Dr. Dobson: I want to start today's program with a declarative statement. You may have noticed that life is not fair and it can be very difficult. If you believe that it's supposed to be problem-free and you've gone through some very hard knocks with your life, you're likely to feel victimized and demoralized by society, or even by God. It's a horrible feeling that can paralyze a person in their circumstances.

And we're talking to some people today who are there, some who have been through really difficult times and they're clinically depressed and confused with life and angry at others who they perceive as being luckier than they, and they might blame God for their circumstances.

I want to offer some hope to them and to all of us, because life is difficult and it is not perfect and it was never intended to be. And if you think it is, look at some of the heroes in the Bible and they've gone through some very, very difficult things too, starting with Job.

But I want you to meet a woman whom I met an hour ago. She is a delightful person and she's had her share of difficulties, and the way she's dealt with it has been an inspiration to others. She's Rebekah Gregory and she has written a book called Taking My Life Back, the Story of My Faith, Determination, and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing. That'll tell you where we're going today. Rebekah, I'm so glad to have you here.

Rebekah Gregory: It is an absolute honor, Dr. Dobson, to be here.

Dr. Dobson: You know what I'm talking about, don't you? About tough times.

Rebekah Gregory: I do. Yes, I've had some tough times I would say.

Dr. Dobson: Well, let's start by talking about the most difficult one. Take us back to April 15th, 2013, your birthday as a matter of fact, wasn't it?

Rebekah Gregory: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: When you were attending the Boston Marathon and you were near the finish line. Tell us what happened. We remember it from the headlines and the news and on television, but you experienced it. Tell us about it.

Rebekah Gregory: So, it was a great weekend, actually. It was my first time ever in the city of Boston, my 26th birthday weekend. I had gone up there to watch someone, a friend of ours, run, and oftentimes I joke that people think I was automatically running in the Boston Marathon and I'm like, "No, no. I was on the sidelines eating chocolate covered pretzels, wondering why anyone runs 26.2 miles." But I had also taken my son up with me and he was five at the time, Noah, and we caught a Red Sox game, we toured the city, and we were all packed up, ready to go back home to Texas as soon as that marathon concluded on Monday. We started out the day at the 17 mile marker, we were tracking our runner with an app on our phones, and so we're there holding up our signs and everybody's excited.

Dr. Dobson: So you weren't stable, you were moving?

Rebekah Gregory: We were moving, we were wanting to see her actually finish the race and so we were trying to keep up with her. And then what people don't tell you is that when you're watching someone else run a marathon, then you end up running the marathon with them to try to cheer them on.

Dr. Dobson: Yeah.

Rebekah Gregory: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: Oh yeah, and you were doing that.

Rebekah Gregory: We were doing that. And I was also trying to keep my five-year-old son occupied because then I started to question why in the world did I bring a kindergartner to a race of half a million people?

Dr. Dobson: Well, tell us what happened.

Rebekah Gregory: Well, so we started at the 17 mile marker and then one of our people in our group of about nine said, "Hey, why don't we go onto the finish line and actually be able to see our runner cross?" And so everyone thought it was a great idea and we started making our way through the crowds and trying to push our way through the people. And during this time, Noah, my son was getting really, really bored and he starts tugging on my clothes and asking when we're going to leave, and I remember getting to our spot right there at the finish and it was a great spot. We were right in the middle of the action.

Dr. Dobson: How'd you find it? I mean, everybody wants to be at the finish line.

Rebekah Gregory: We pushed our way through. We got there, we were determined and we were there. We could see everybody cross and they just had these huge smiles on their faces. That's a big goal to run the Boston Marathon, and it was really cool to see that. But Noah just kept getting more and more bored. And he said, "Mom, come on. Do you have any toys for me to play with? I'm so bored," and tugging on my clothes. And I said, "Noah buddy, why don't you sit down on my feet and play in the rocks like you're a scientist?" And there were no rocks. We were on asphalt, but to a five-year-old, that was cool. And so Noah sat down on my feet with his back against my shins. And that's exactly where he was when a bomb in a backpack went off three feet behind us.

Dr. Dobson: And 260 were injured?

Rebekah Gregory: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: What an incredible moment. How about yourself?

Rebekah Gregory: It was unlike anything I've ever experienced, obviously, and something that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. The hardest part of that day was not the physical though, it was the emotional, it was everything that not only I saw, but my son saw as well.

Dr. Dobson: Everybody was screaming.

Rebekah Gregory: Everyone was screaming. I could not move anything but my head. My bones were laying next to me on the sidewalk. My left leg was on fire. There were people's body parts all around us that weren't even attached to them. There were nails, BBs, ball-bearings, everything that these brothers packed into these pressure cooker bombs and it was... It was a true war scene.

Dr. Dobson: They had run. One of them that was responsible for the final stage of the bomb ran, didn't he?

Rebekah Gregory: He wanted to get a second bomb placed down.

Dr. Dobson: A second bomb.

Rebekah Gregory: Yes, so there was one... we were at the first one and then a couple of hundred feet away from us was another backpack with a bomb in it.

Dr. Dobson: What happened? Explain what took place then. Paramedics came from everywhere.

Rebekah Gregory: It was chaos. It was true chaos and it did feel like we were in the war. I mean the things that we saw are what you see when soldiers are overseas and it was just the scariest moments of my life, and it was honestly the day that I thought that I was for sure going to die.

Dr. Dobson: You were terribly injured though.

Rebekah Gregory: I was. A guy, I remember he tied a tourniquet around my leg and some others lifted me onto a gurney and I said a prayer. I said, "God, if this is it, take me but let me know that my son is okay." And right after that, I saw in my peripheral vision, Noah being picked up by a police officer and I could see that his leg was bleeding, but he was nowhere near as injured as I was. And then I thought I really was going to die because God just gave me confirmation that Noah's okay. So now it's my turn. But it was really a way of allowing me to say, "Okay, now I need to take care of myself."

And when I look back on that day, as horrible as it was, what I see are the first responders and the innocent bystanders that rushed in to save our lives, not knowing if a third or a fourth or a fifth bomb was getting ready to go off. And I see the people that were brave enough to put us on those gurneys and transfer us to the ambulance and the hospital. And those are the reasons that I'm here.

Dr. Dobson: These were not paramedics. These were bystanders.

Rebekah Gregory: These were people that were just coming to help. People that had just crossed the finish line or were standing at the tents. I mean, everyone rushed in to help save us.

Dr. Dobson: Did you see the people dying? Were they close enough to you?

Rebekah Gregory: I saw everything and there was... there's so many images that will be burned into my head forever of that day, but I saw angels too, and that's what I take away from it. With as horrible as that scene was, I see the angels that rushed in to help us and then the bombing happened right after a drill the year before. So if it was in another city, they would not have been as equipped and prepared to handle it, and everyone that got off the street all made it to a hospital and all are alive today because all of the major trauma hospitals were within a half mile radius of when it happened.

Dr. Dobson: Rebekah, were you panicked? Did you... You said you thought you were going to die. Describe your reaction.

Rebekah Gregory: I was panicked because I didn't know what had happened and that was the scariest part. I knew that it was something terrible, but looking at myself and just being able to see the scenes that I saw, my bones laying next to me, my leg on fire, I was bleeding out at a very rapid pace. But at that moment, my mom instincts kicked in and I just wanted my son to be okay.

And I remember the long ambulance ride to the hospital. It felt like forever, and I remember being in the most excruciating pain in my entire life and just begging them to put me to sleep or give me medicine to help knock this out. I just wanted it to go away and I got to the hospital and that's when they placed me in a medically induced coma.

But the amazing part is, is that Noah and I actually got separated. We went to two separate hospitals, but my medically induced coma was for a couple of days, and about the fifth day, I was really waking up and coherent enough to know what was going on, and it was the same day that Noah was coming to visit me in my hospital. And so, I felt like that was God's way of saying, "Okay, rest. I've got this and we're going to give you some rest now."

Dr. Dobson: When the bombing occurred, did Noah see it? And then you were separated, was that terribly traumatic for him?

Rebekah Gregory: It was so traumatic for him. Noah could remember everything at one point from that day. So, he would ask about specific people and specific clothing and you would look back at the first scene of the bomb and sure enough, these people that he's describing are right there. he lost his innocence that day. I thought he was never going to be okay again and I spent 56 days in the hospital initially, and the first thing that he said to me when I got home, when I was wheeled in a wheelchair to my mom's house, because I could no longer even go to our own house, my little boy came out and he said, "Don't worry mom, we are never leaving this house again."

And it was on the way home from the hospital that my own trauma and PTSD set in because I had been confined to this one room for 56 days with the same nurses and same doctors taking care of me and then all of a sudden I felt like every single person was out to get me and all of this trouble and I was going to die before I got home.

Dr. Dobson: How was your PTSD manifested?

Rebekah Gregory: It just manifested in the way that I thought everyone was just out to get me. As soon as I left the comfort of that hospital, it was like every noise, every car, every person that we saw and even in the house, in my mom's house, the familiar sounds of her dog barking and my little sister and Noah even playing in the room, it was enough to terrify me, and I remember-

Dr. Dobson: You had flashbacks to the bombing?

Rebekah Gregory: Flashbacks, nightmares, loud noises.

Dr. Dobson: What an unbelievably evil thing to do to innocent people. Just people standing there enjoying the marathon and to do that with children all around. One of the men who did that is now dead, right? And the other one, he's obviously in prison.

Rebekah Gregory: He is and he got the death penalty. I actually had to go back and testify in the trial of the remaining bomber, and I remember sitting in court and he had absolutely no remorse on his face. He was leaning back in his chair, fiddling with his pencil, cracking jokes with his attorney, and I went back and I gave a victim impact statement. And the whole time I stared at him, I felt like I was staring at the face of the devil because his eyes were just black. You couldn't see his soul, and when you talk to people, you feel their heart and you feel their compassion and there was none of that. There was no remorse. There was no, "I'm sorry" for anything that he's done.

Dr. Dobson: Do you feel anger toward him?

Rebekah Gregory: I didn't feel angry until I went to the trial, and I saw the lack of remorse. And then I saw the families of the victims that had to come in and rehash these terrible moments of their lives. And that was hard, it was hard. People ask me about forgiveness and as a Christian we're supposed to forgive. And I think that forgiveness is a process. I think that I'm closer now than I was six years ago, but that man almost took my son from me. He did take my leg from me and he changed the entire course of my life, but if I was to give in to that anger and if I held that in my heart, then that would only mean that I couldn't move forward. So, I try not to hold onto that resentment and I try to do everything that I did before and even more because I have a new appreciation for life now.

Dr. Dobson: You know, I may have a different take on the angry response to something like that. I'm not sure that the scriptures support those who say having gone through that, you can get to the point where you don't feel upset or anger toward people.

Rebekah Gregory: Right.

Dr. Dobson: I don't think that is right. You can control what you do with the way you feel, but feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are.

Rebekah Gregory: Right.

Dr. Dobson: You can't help what you feel. But you can forgive and sometimes not forget.

Rebekah Gregory: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: You have not forgotten, have you?

Rebekah Gregory: I haven't.

Dr. Dobson: I think it's unreasonable for people to say you should be able to get so far beyond that, you don't feel what you went through or what these men have done to you.

Rebekah Gregory: It's still with me every day. Every day I wake up and I either reach for a wheelchair or I reach for a prosthetic leg as a result of what happened that day. I still have hundreds of pieces of metal and shrapnel in my body that I'm still continuing to go through surgeries for. I've had 68 operations.

Dr. Dobson: Sixty-eight operations.

Rebekah Gregory: And I lost my leg below the knee.

Dr. Dobson: And they tried to save your leg for a while, didn't they?

Rebekah Gregory: They did. For a year and a half, I went through constant surgeries and tried to do limb salvage and I'm really appreciative of that time just because when you can do nothing and you're so broken, I feel like that's when God really just comes into your life and makes you whole and gives you peace, as weird as that may sound. Like for me, I went from a night where I wanted to die. I just called out to the Lord and I said, "Why in the world did You spare me?"

Dr. Dobson: How far into the process were you?

Rebekah Gregory: It was a couple days after I came home from the hospital, that initial stay, the PTSD had set in, the trauma had set in and I was just like, "why? Why am I spared from this? What could You possibly have in store for me? What is the purpose?"

And right around that time was when my son, Noah, came running into the room and just cuddled up with me on the bed that I was laying on. And he said, "You know what, Mom? We're good, right? We're going to get through this." And I'm like, "Okay, Lord."

Dr. Dobson: What a gift.

Rebekah Gregory: "Okay, Lord." And He's done that for me so many different times in the last six years. Whenever I start to doubt myself, whenever I start to feel sorry for something, I look at my little boy and I'm like, I have nothing to feel sorry for. If I had to lose my leg and still have surgeries ongoing for the rest of my life, if it meant saving him, just being that shield, even though I know I didn't do it, God is obviously the one in charge of that, but I would do it tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

Dr. Dobson: What led you to write this book? It's called Taking My Life Back. What a great title, and the subtitle I like also, My Story of Faith, Determination and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing. There's a resiliency in that title. Is it really true? Have you taken your life back?

Rebekah Gregory: I feel like I take my life back every single day I decide to not give up and continue to pick up the pieces and continue to know that God is in control of it all.

You know, the majority of people, I say, are not going to get blown up by a bomb at a marathon, but every single person has life blow up in their face. And my life has been a series of different traumas.

Dr. Dobson: That is so good, I'd like you to say it again.

Rebekah Gregory: Sure. The majority of people will never get blown up by a bomb at a marathon, but every single person has life blow up in their face. And I've had traumas ever since I can remember. It started out with an abusive dad who was supposed to be an evangelist and traveled all over the world preaching God's love and came home and beat me and my mom.

And then it continued on through my teen years. I got into a really terrible car accident that should have taken my life. Six months before Boston, I actually got held up in a Walmart parking lot and robbed at gunpoint. And so, for me, writing this book meant being vulnerable and exposing the toughest parts of my life so that maybe someone else that's going through their own stuff can resonate, and maybe they can get through something and cling to God like I did. Because there's been so many times in my life where I go my own way and I'm on my own path and, for instance, I had a baby at 20 years old, but when I decided that I was going to give it all to God, everything and not go my own way anymore, it was just - my life transformed.

Dr. Dobson: And so, He has been there for you through the tough times.

Rebekah Gregory: He's always there. I think it's really easy to look back on right before I left for Boston. I was swamped at work. I had a quota to meet. I almost canceled my trip at least five times. I pulled out my phone that night when I was still sitting at work at 10:30 and I was getting ready to leave the next morning at 6:00 AM and I almost canceled. That's hard not to think about. Like, what would my life look like had I not gone on that trip, had I not been at the Boston Marathon?

But everything that's happened since, I look at it, and I've reconnected with my amazing husband. I had my beautiful daughter, as scary as her birth was, too. We've created a foundation for children and families that have gone through their own trauma. That I was just frantically Googling how to help my son, how to help me, what therapies we needed, and through that research and that constant, just wanting to know more, we realized the need for childhood trauma advocacy and the need to be a solution. And I feel like God has led us up to this point.

Dr. Dobson: Well, one thing's sure, you wouldn't be sitting here right now if this hadn't happened.

Rebekah Gregory: That's for sure.

Dr. Dobson: And you have an opportunity to talk to many people who need to hear what you have to say. Your title of your book here says you're not going to give up on life, that the Lord is in control and you're going on with your life.

Rebekah Gregory: Yes.

Dr. Dobson: I like that. That needs to be said.

Rebekah Gregory: For 26 years, I expected the get out of bed and put two feet on the ground, and when I couldn't do that anymore, when I could no longer put two feet on the ground, my entire life changed. And not just physically, but emotionally. And it really made me appreciate just being able to get out of the bed at all. And my kids, being able to love on them and my husband. Life is beautiful, but we have to decide that we're going to count our blessings and not count our problems.

Dr. Dobson: Well, that's a very courageous statement in itself. And I want to talk to you another day because this isn't the only trauma you've gone through. You had a really tough childhood.

Rebekah Gregory: I did.

Dr. Dobson: So, really what I keep coming back to is the fact that there are people who can say, "Man, this is not right. This is not fair," and give up on life and you haven't done that despite the fact that you've really been kicked around a lot by life and by circumstances, and you've got something to say to those who are right there now. The title of your book is Taking My Life Back, My Story of Faith and Determination. Do you still have faith? You're still dependent on the Lord?

Rebekah Gregory: My faith is stronger than ever and I try to walk with the Lord every single day because He directs my steps, He directs my path.

Dr. Dobson: Do you resent having to put on that prosthesis in the morning?

Rebekah Gregory: As much as I would love to just throw it across the room and never look at it again. I nicknamed my leg, by the way. Her name is Felicia, and I wrapped her up in a baby blanket when I first got my prosthetic. She was like a new member of our family. But I am not resentful because it's a daily reminder of how short my life is, and so every day I am reminded that I almost lost my life for good.

And my husband always gets kind of like, "Oh, Bek." But I say, "If we're not laying on the pavement fighting for our life, then it's a good day." So, if he's fussing at traffic or if he gets his feathers a little ruffled, I say, "Nope. Babe, we're not on the pavement today." He's like, "Bek, can you just let me have my moment, please?"

Dr. Dobson: Rebekah, how can people get in touch with you if they want you to come speak or participate in some way? How can they reach you?

Rebekah Gregory: They can reach me through my website rebekahmgregory.com and then also Rebekahsangels.org.

Ryan Dobson: This is Ryan Dobson, dropping in this week as Family Talk celebrates its ten year anniversary of being on the air. You've been listening to my dad's moving conversation with Rebekah Gregory. She endured unbelievable pain, but as you've heard today, she has an inspiring attitude and godly perspective to what she went through. Be sure to listen in tomorrow for the remainder of Rebekah's powerful testimony. In the meantime, visit the broadcast page for links to her growing ministry, and to her memoir, called Taking My Life Back. Find that information by going to drjamesdobson.org, then clicking on today's broadcast tab at the top of the page.

Next time, Rebekah shares why she was able to hold fast to God through other traumatic situations. She also talks in greater details about the purpose and vision for her organization, Rebekah's Angels Foundation. It's an encouraging program you won't want to miss, on tomorrow's edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

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