For those who lost limbs, a race like no other

Kevin Corcoran reached for daughter Sydney, wife Celeste, and sister-in-law Carmen after they crossed the finish line. Celeste lost both legs in 2013; Sydney had serious leg injuries.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Kevin Corcoran reached for daughter Sydney, wife Celeste, and sister-in-law Carmen after they crossed the finish line. Celeste lost both legs in 2013; Sydney had serious leg injuries.

At 2:49 p.m., the precise moment a year ago that the first of two bombs exploded near the Marathon finish line, Celeste and Sydney Corcoran strode hand-in-hand Monday, preparing to rewrite horrific memories with a triumphant one.

Celeste, who lost both legs in the explosions, and her daughter Sydney, who nearly bled to death from her injuries, headed down Boylston Street to Exeter. Here, the mother and daughter from Lowell waited, flanked by a team of security, for Celeste’s sister, Carmen Acabbo, who was among the thousands stopped from crossing the finish line last year.

The goal this year was for the three to join hands at Exeter and run the last block together.


For more than an hour, Sydney alternately paced, cheered runners, and held her mother’s hand. Celeste gingerly tested her new blade-style prosthetics, as they anxiously peered into the relentless onslaught of runners.

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Finally, around 4 p.m., a beaming, sweaty Acabbo approached and hugged her sister and niece. The three, sporting matching coral-colored T-shirts with “Corcoran Strong” on the front, joined hands and slowly jogged the long-awaited block to the finish.

“We did it,” Celeste declared, shortly after they crossed the line, with throngs of media surrounding them.

“For me, I did this for every single person who can’t run this race,” she said.

Sydney, who will turn 19 this week, smiled quietly as her mother and aunt addressed the hordes of reporters and spectators. On her right forearm, she displayed a fresh tattoo.

Mary Schwalm/Associated Press
Patrick Downes of Medford (right), who lost a leg last year, smiled as he rolled through the “scream tunnel.”

“Choose to live,” it said in a graceful script — the words of encouragement often used by the therapist helping Sydney beat back the post-traumatic stress that has haunted her since the bombings.

“The support that was out there was unbelieveable,” Acabbo said of the crowds that lined the course. As she ran, Acabbo said, she thought of “all the stuff” the family had been through: Sydney needed several surgeries to repair grievous wounds to her legs, and Celeste has undergone repeated adjustments for her prosthetics and recent surgery for a ruptured eardrum.

Another pair of bombing survivors, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, also crossed the finish. The newlyweds, who each lost their left leg below the knee, rode hand cycles along the entire course and clasped hands as they crossed the line.

Charles Krupa/AP
Adrianne Haslet-Davis and Jeff Bauman exchanged greetings near the finish line.

Jeff Bauman, the only other Marathon survivor to lose both legs in the explosions, marked the day on a quieter note, walking with his fiancée, Erin Hurley, into the viewing stands to watch and cheer runners across the finish line.

“It’s amazing to see all these people run, to see their faces,” Bauman said as he left the stands, at around 1 p.m., to shake hands with Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston. Bauman then waved to well-wishers and walked, a crutch in each hand and Hurley by his side, to spend quiet time away from the loud crowds.


While a number of survivors skipped the VIP stand near the finish line, Bolton resident Bill White, 72, said he would not have missed it. White, who lost his lower right leg in the blasts, was there to watch his son, Kevin, run. Kevin White had been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds, but he was not seriously injured.

“It’s been a long year,” Bill White said.

He walked a one-kilometer road race on Saturday, held by the Boston Athletic Association, the Marathon’s sponsor, in tribute of the survivors.

“I didn’t think I could do it,” White said. “It’s the first time I walked that far in a year.”

Similarly, Celeste Corcoran said her shared blocklong journey to the finish was something she never imagined she would be able to do last year.

“The negative power is officially gone from this spot,” she declared. “Terrorists never, ever win.”

More from the 2014 Boston Marathon — Cullen: Just like the days we used to know | Gasper: Boston reclaims its Marathon | Photos: Marathon scenes | The ‘Scream Tunnel’ and Heartbreak Hill | The elite runners | Boylston Street | Videos from the Marathon | Full coverage

Kay Lazar can be reached
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