Twenty-nine-year-old Towson preschool teacher Erika Brannock was stationed near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, waiting to cheer on her mother during the final strides of the race, when it happened: bright flashes, screams and cries, the sensation of falling in slow motion.

The first of two homemade bombs fashioned by radicalized Islamist immigrant brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev had detonated, sending shrapnel flying that would kill three and wound hundreds more. Brannock’s injuries—including hearing loss and wounds severe enough to require a partial amputation of her left leg—would keep her in the hospital longer than any other victim of the grisly event.

But when the Ellicott City native returned to Baltimore in June, she did so not with bitterness but with remarkable grace and a quiet determination to move forward, which she has. In October, shortly after taking her first steps using her new prosthesis, she presided over the start of Baltimore’s own marathon.

“I wasn’t going to stop living because something was uncomfortable or something was scary.” —Erika Brannock to WBAL-TV’s Kate Amara at the Baltimore marathon