April 15, 2014 -- Adrianne Haslet-Davis went to last year’s Boston Marathon with her husband to celebrate his safe return from Afghanistan.
But 6,500 miles away from the war zone, a bomb went off in their own neighborhood.
“I wrapped my arms around him, underneath his arms, around his chest, and I said: ‘The next one’s going to hit.’ And I buried my head in his chest. And it hit,” Haslet-Davis told ABC News recently.
Haslet-Davis, 33, was a professional ballroom dancer. The bomb severely damaged her left foot.
“I remember them saying ‘You might have lost your leg,’ and I said, ‘No, no, that's not going to happen. I'm a dancer,’” said Haslet-Davis, 33, of Boston.
Doctors ultimately had to amputate her foot,
But Haslet-Davis teamed up with MIT bionic limb wizard Hugh Herr to waltz her back to the dance floor.
Herr became a double amputee in 1982 after becoming stranded on Mount Washington for four days in minus 20 degree weather. He vowed to climb mountains again, and by developing specialized prosthetic feet, he became a better climber than he was before the accident, he wrote in an essay for the Wall Street Journal. In that essay, he pledged to help Haslet-Davis.
He had 200 days to make the perfect bionic limb foot for a dancer, which would be difficult, Herr told ABCNews.com. Most bionic limbs are built for the repetitive motion of walking, but dancing is different, he said. The steps, turns and dips required a limb that could do more than repeat the same motion over and over.
But he did it.
Haslet-Davis danced for an audience for the first time in nearly a year when she performed last month at the TEDx convention, a conference that celebrates new and innovative ideas.
“In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor,” Herr said from the stage before the performance. “In 200 days, we put her back.”
Backstage, Haslet-Davis became emotional, but a stage manager gave her some tissues and a few words of encouragement.
“We stopped for a quick second and stood in front of the curtain before we walked out, and I just started bawling,” Haslet-Davis told ABC News afterward. “Before the dance even started, I wasn't going to let this stop me. When I think I can't do something, I just tell myself I'm not going to let them win.”
But she danced the rumba with her partner, Christian Lightner, while Herr watched from the wing.
“I recognized my passion prior to my limb loss was climbing, and it was an amazing experience to build technology and be successful in returning to climbing,” Herr told ABCNews.com. “I’m kind of reliving that through Adrianne … Her expression when she has an opportunity to move and dance again, it’s absolute joy.”