Mother of Boston bombing victims looks back on tragedy

Local mother of Boston Marathon bombing victims looks back on tragedy one year later

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Nicole had several broken bones, a nearly severed Achilles tendon, and eardrum damage. Nicole had several broken bones, a nearly severed Achilles tendon, and eardrum damage.
"I have a hard time still looking at it," Susan said referring to the photo of Nicole, "I don't want to keep looking back, I want to look forward. "I have a hard time still looking at it," Susan said referring to the photo of Nicole, "I don't want to keep looking back, I want to look forward.
Now, one year later, things are much different. This past fall the sisters kicked off a Boston qualifying marathon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Now, one year later, things are much different. This past fall the sisters kicked off a Boston qualifying marathon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - This week 2 former UT swimmers and their family are returning to Boston, the scene of the marathon bombings that forever changed their lives.

Michael and Nicole Gross, along with Nicole's sister Erika Brannock were seriously injured.  The three were there to see the girls' mother , Carol Downing, run the race for the first time.  

Back here in East Tennessee,  Michael's mother, Susan Gross, was one of the first to be alerted to the tragedy.  It's a phone call she still can't get out of her head.  "I was out in the grocery store shopping," Susan told 6 News Anchor Kristin Farley, "...and Michael called me and said Mom there has been an explosion and I can't find Nicole, I can't find Nicole and I heard screaming and then the phone went blank."

Susan rushed home and turned on the TV seeing images of the blast and the injured.  Her daughter-in-law's bloody, shocked image became synonymous with the tragedy.   "I have a hard time still looking at it," Susan said referring to the photo of Nicole, "I don't want to keep looking back, I want to look forward. I want to see her running and walking and being happy, not sitting there in shock, bleeding."

Nicole had several broken bones, a nearly severed Achilles tendon, and eardrum damage. Erika had to have her leg amputated and Michael suffered some minor injuries after being blown back by the blast.   

Now, one year later, things are much different. This past fall the sisters kicked off a Boston qualifying marathon in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It was the first time the whole family came together, in a race setting, since Boston.  Nicole told the ABC affiliate in Charlotte, "Thank you for the bottom of our hearts for keeping us strong."

It was an emotional day for everyone, but the family vowed not to live in fear.

Now Erika and Nicole's mother is planning to finish the race she started.  She and Michael's brother will be running and representing the family, everyone else will be there too, cheering them on.

 As Susan filled us in on her family's progress she also shared part of her published article "Through the Eyes of a Mother."   She said putting her feelings on paper was part of the healing process.  

This year as she watches the Boston Marathon, in person, she knows thoughts of the blast will be there.  Memories of all the pain, fear, and hospital visits will surface, but she says she and her family want to live by the last line of her article and that being back in Boston is part of doing just that.  She read that line to us, fighting back tears  "Live each day as if it were a gift and don't be afraid to give someone you love today a hug."

There is a website where you can learn more about the family's progress and you can also donate to help in Nicole, Michael and Erika's recovery at  www.bestrongstaystrong.net.

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