90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, April 22, 2013

Dancer Who Lost Leg In Bombing: ‘I’m A Fighter’

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, left, is pictured with emergency physician Dr. Ron Medzon at Boston Medical Center. (Courtesy: Haslet-Davis family)

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, left, is pictured with emergency physician Dr. Ron Medzon at Boston Medical Center. (Courtesy: Haslet-Davis family)

Adrianne Haslet-Davis is a 32-year-old competitive dancer who teaches at the Arthur Murray Studio in Boston. Her husband, Air Force Capt. Adam Davis, just returned to the U.S. from Afghanistan.

On Marathon Monday, they were a block or so away from the finish line at the Boston Marathon — the site of the second explosion — and they were both seriously injured.

We first heard about Haslet-Davis the day after the bombings, when Boston Medical Center emergency physician Ron Medzon told us the story of an unnamed ballroom dancer who pleaded with doctors to save her foot.

Here & Now’s Robin Young spoke to the couple about their injuries, their recovery and their resolve.

Note: A number of groups are raising money for the victims of the marathon bombings. There’s one fund specifically for Adrianne. There’s also The One Fund set up by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino. For a list of other crowdsourcing funds, click here.

Interview Highlights

Excerpts of Robin’s interview with Adrianne Haslet-Davis:

Dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis and her husband, Air Force Capt. Adam Davis, hold hands at Boston Medical Center on Sunday. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

Dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis and her husband, Air Force Capt. Adam Davis, hold hands at Boston Medical Center on Sunday. (Robin Young/Here & Now)

Memories Of The Explosions

“I remember everything. I remember every detail. I remember the first bomb going off and screaming and holding on to Adam and saying, ‘Oh no, oh no, please no.’ And I remember smelling smoke, and everyone around us just seemed very still and very quiet.”

“The first one went off, I grabbed a hold of Adam. It was: ‘We need to go inside. Wait, should we be outside? Maybe we should be.’ And then, the second bomb went off, and it went off directly in front of us. And I remember the pressure from the air hitting my chest and my stomach, and sailing me backwards onto my left side, and landing, sort of in a pretzel with Adam. We sort of landed as we sleep, you know, just sort of curled up. I was big spoon around him.

“And he said, ‘Are you OK?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I think I’m OK. I think we’re OK. I can’t believe it, I think we’re OK.’ And then a couple seconds went by, or minutes, or who knows. And then I said, ‘I think my foot hurts.’

“And I said, ‘Oh, my foot hurts bad. It really hurts.’ And I sat up, and then, I looked at my foot the same time (was it the same time?) that Adam looked at my foot. And he picked up my foot, and it was dangling. Most of my heel was gone, and I could see my toes were still attached, but most of the bones and everything were gone.

“And he just started screaming, and I started screaming.”

At The Hospital

“I remember telling a lot of doctors that I was a ballroom dancer, and that it was extremely important that I kept my foot, that I could still feel every toe and move every toe. I rolled my foot around, what was left of it, to know that the nerves and the brain were still attached … I woke up and I didn’t have a foot anymore. I didn’t have a left foot anymore.”

Separation From Adam

“I just kept thinking, he’s only been home now from Afghanistan maybe two weeks, two and a half weeks. And so all of a sudden, we get separated again. And I thought, I just want to be near him, come on, it’s like Christmas. I just want to be near him.”

How She’s Coping

“Overall, I feel like I’m a fighter and I’m ready. I’m ready for the challenge. Someone tried to stop me from reaching my dreams, and I want to be able to just say, well, ‘Nice try, I’m still going to go for it and stay positive through it.’

“And then I have moments, like this morning, where I just get extremely frustrated and I’m just angry. And I feel very dependent on everyone around me – just to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, or just to put on a pant leg or anything like that. And it makes me want to scream and punch pillows and throw water bottles and just get extremely angry.

“So I think I’m still in the coping stages. It goes up and down.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    I hope Hugh Herr’s amazing technology will be able to come to the rescue here.

    I would love for Adrianne to meet Aimee Mullins.

    • Robin Y

      YES YES YES! We were at the Museum of Science when Hugh won the Invented Here award…we’ve forwarded Aimee’s Ted Talk, and will send info on Hugh.

      All best

  • MicNic

    Adrianne–you are so brave and strong! I hope you, as a dancer, will be able to try horseback riding and the sport of dressage as part of your rehab. Horses are great dancing partners.

  • Gordon Kelly

    Tell Adrianne Davis that we all want to know when she is ready to have us watch her ballroom dance performance. Listening to her makes me know that day will come. Knowing that she is working and struggling to achieve this gives meaning to my work and struggle. It is sad that we sometimes need tragedy to recognize beauty and struggle to recognize achievement.

  • Sandy

    I would just like to express my gratitude to these young people for sharing their experience in a way that inspires hope for so many people. I am so proud of both of them. Thank you for bringing us a story that inspires us to keep trying to do our best in this life every day.
    Sandy Keiter, Portland, Oregon

  • Brianne

    This was the most inspiring interview.  Thank you Adrianne.  

  • Clint Cavanaugh

    Here you go, Adrianne – http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html

    Your optimisim and gentle spirit are lovely.

  • Ggcoolidge

    I found your interview with the injured dancer grossly insensitive.  Not only was it intrusive and sensational to plumb the details of her tragedy but it was also greatly disturbing to the listening audience to go back over the excruciating details of her maiming.  I turned my radio off. 
    Gloria Coolidge

    • 42kes

      I’m very glad Adrianne shared her story with us the “Here and Now” audience. I also support your ability to turn off your radio.

      • Robin Y

        SO sorry Gloria, perhaps I should have warned listeners.

        I do feel tho, whatever a bomb victim needs to say, we need to hear,
        if we can.


        • J__o__h__n

          I didn’t find the questioning insensitive and was impressed with her ability to deal with her injury.

        • CRB

          I agree Robin.  Whatever a victim needs to say, we do need to hear. You gave Adrianne the choice to share or not to share. If Adrianne and Adam can find the strength to live through and try to process this horror, I can find the strength to listen.

    • Chicago

      We need to hear these things, no matter how unpleasant. The conversation was not forced or involuntary.

    • Vlbsvd

      Gloria, I’m afraid you are so misguided in your negative reaction! As a clinical psychologist who treats people who suffers from PTSD, I can tell you that “imaginal exposure”, or the retelling of the traumatic experience, is the main component of “exposure therapy”, which is the evidence-based standard of care for dealing with PTSD and with traumatic events, in general. In other words, interviewing Adrianne and Adam was one of the most helpful things that could be done for them…not to mention the inspiration and hope that their story brings to so many others who hear their interview!!

  • Lisa

    What a fighter and an inspiration!

  • 42kes

    Thank you Adrianne for being so optimistic. One day at a time, sometimes (One minute at a time) is a great mantra. Pain can really bring a person to the dark depths of despair in heart and soul. Remember there are so many people who truely care about your recovery. 

    I too know the feelings of joy while dancing. Perhaps “Dancing with the Stars” is looking for participants. I sure am voting for you to win, running, dancing, or walking.

  • Trudie

    I would rather hear the stories of the victims than the stories of the terroists…I hope you continue to follow this amazing young couple as they heal….they are they ones we need to help and focus on!! Thank you

  • Jeffrimland

    I am a poet and please see a poem entitled Boston oh Boston, dedicated to all the fallen , injured, and of course Captain Davis and Adrienne 

    Boston oh Boston


    Boston, oh Boston,

    the sages call out in despair.

    What have they done to our city?

    Boston oh Boston,

    what the British couldn’t do, could these perpetrators do?

    We think not.


    So many before,

    have given their lives in defense of liberty;  a free land,

    are swirling around in the heavens,

    holding their hands,

    and saying

    Boston, oh Boston,

    don’t despair,


    The sons of liberty will defend you,

    The Marathoner  will run,

    again and again on Patriots day.


    Whether in heartbreak in  the
    name of the fallen,

    or in sadness and shock, without the limbs they started on Patriots day

    but with  their new ones,

    they will run again,

    they will walk again,

    they will live again.


    Boston oh Boston,

    don’t despair.

    A new day will come,

    when the sages will say,

    they have not destroyed our city,


    But made everyone more aware,

    that Freedom is not Free.

    Copyright 2013 Jeff Rimland

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      Dithyramb for Tamerlan and Jahar (with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

      With knapsacks veiled will one with white cap wear,
      For thus the pressure cooker Tamerlan and Jahar bare,
      When they the city’s bosom gored, 
      And wrought the souls of Boston be
      Regenerate in equality.

      Oh! Repugnant Jahar! Never
      Shall Nepenthe be thine, who repents forever.
      Thy shade, as seers have told, inherits
      The breath of the living spirits,
      Where, honored, live the remembered dead,
      Krystle, fleet of heart, and Martin, loved.

      In yacht concealed will one with throat wounds hide,
      For thus the helicopters seek Tamerlan and Jahar espied,
      When they the city’s bosom gored;
      When in Marathon’s festal rite
      They closed innocent eyes with fright.

      Bostonians praise policeman’s name,
      Shall bloom on earth with undying fame;
      Who with the Law of Justice’ Word
      The brother’s acts abhored,
      And bade good souls of Boston freed

  • Dave

    Absolutely inspiring. As a Bostonian, as a spouse, as a person trying to cope with this insanity — Adrianne and Adam have given me a new source of strength. They’ll inspire the other victims when they’re ready, just as they have us. And they’ll do great things to make this world a better place.  

  • Anne

    Adrianne many years ago there was a one legged tap dancer, Peg Leg Pete (I think that was his name),  who appeared regularly on The Ed Sullivan Shoe.  I was only a kid back then,  but watched him I did and at certain times in my life he was an inspiration.  If you can tap dance with one leg, well what is it you can’t do.  I wish you, and Adam a joyful life together because in the end that is all matters.  Much love to you both 

  • Arlene Vande

    I didn’t like this segment.  When I tried to indicate as much, it came up as a like.  Interview this couple 2 years from now.  Hopefully it will be a better story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749421283 April Steele

    Just want to send my support and well wishes to Adrianne. I know she will not let this interfere with her dreams. I am glad she is healing. She sounds like such a fighter. A survivor.  We are all thinking of you and pulling for you here in the community. <3

  • http://twitter.com/JoannaB Joanna

    Best of luck for a speedy and comfortable recovery, Adrianne.  You WILL dance again!

  • Merfq

    I just wanted to let you know, I’m very sorry you had to go through what you did.  Your story is an inspiration to us all.  I have a love of dance myself and went to Arthur Murray’s dance studio a few years back, and I’m sure they can’t wait to have you back.  Stay strong.  Also, thank you to your husband for his service.

  • Cheryl

    As I drove past Boston Medical Center today with my 12 year old daughter (also a dancer) in the car, we listened to your interview with Adrianne and Adam and were deeply moved and inspired by their love for one another, optimism, and determination. My daughter was impressed with Adrianne’s courage and spirit. Thank you for sharing their story and we look forward to seeing Adrianne dance soon…and were also impressed by Adrianne’s  plan to run next year’s Boston Marathon!

  • Jen0940

    When does the next  “Dancing with the Stars” begin????

  • Elena Czarnowski

    Adrienne – u make me cry , u make me full of strength and energy!
    I am telling all of my friends and family that if we just had 1% of your strength
    our lives and world would be better for it! You are amazing! What a fighter!

  • Caroljosefm

    You are beautiful and you are a role model for all humans. Best of luck!

  • Rosetsou

    I want to bring this company to your attention
    Alternative prostheics in Ct. 
    She was a a capt. helicopter pilot shot down, lost her
    arm. they fashioned an arm, she then went to the marine
    Corps ball in Washington D.C. in a strapless gown.
    They fashioned a strap to hide the seam for her prothethics
    with a hand bag.

    Also a swimmer who l.ost both legs and fashioned a dalphin fin
    This Co. is under contract with Bethesna and Walter Read  Army
    I think they can help you.
    They care for all of the injured coming back
     from the war zone.

  • Helyne

    I have searched around the net to say to you ” what a wonderful woman you are!!” now I know day by day may dent your determination but that is but a dent.
    I am a 65 yr old Aussie woman  who has NEVER sent a fan letter to anyone, until now with tears in my tough eyes.
    Go well girl and husband, you won some sort of lottery wth that girl.

  • Greg Liakos

    Adrianne, thank you for your example of courage and determination. You and Adam are an inspiration to all of those wounded and hurt by this terrible tragedy.

  • M.A.G.

    You fight girl!!! Thoughts and prayers are with you, your husband and all those impacted. xo

  • Guest

    Brought a tear to my eye… but please know Adrianne, you are a fighter! And you will reach your goals!  I believe in you, we all believe in you. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002344863189 Mike Sharkey

    Right, so she just lost her leg days ago and she’s wiggling it about as if nothing…..sure….um…that does not happen in real life folks….

  • MITstudent

    Adrienne, you are amazing. I am so sorry about what happened to you. Your optimism will carry you through this, and I am sure that you will be able to enjoy your life despite this horrible incident. Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to me.

  • Christine Groves

    What a beautiful and brave young woman!   This couples’ story is amazing.   Please continue to update us if they are willing.

  • Joe V

    I met Adrianne and her mother while in Boston this past weekend. Both are amazing and have so much strength and fortitude. You can see that Adrianne has retained so much of her mother’s positive attitude and even taken it a step further. Nothing will slow this lady down. Her life has been changed, but that change now will bring her strength and amazing attitude to so many people all over the world. 

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

August 21 21 Comments

The Challenges Of Recruiting An All-Volunteer Army

The Army is meeting its targets, but the man who runs recruiting says finding qualified candidates in the 17 to 24 age group can be difficult.

August 21 Comment

Syrian Clarinetist Finds A Home For His Music

"Does the clarinet stop a bullet or does it feed a child or does it rebuild a destroyed home?" Kinan Azmeh asks. "Of course it doesn't. But... it can inspire."

August 20 Comment

James Foley Remembered For His ‘Extraordinary Courage’

U.S. officials have confirmed the authenticity of a video showing the beheading of the American journalist.

August 20 7 Comments

L.A. Moves To Arrest Fewer Misbehaving Students

The change in the school district's policy is the culmination of a long fight by judges, government officials, advocates and attorneys.