Rock Center   |  April 26, 2013

Mom, daughter persevere together after Boston bombings

Celeste and Sydney Corcoran describe surviving the Boston Marathon bombings in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Natalie Morales. In a memorable photo from the scene, Sydney Corcoran, 18, is seen being helped by a stranger. Her mother, Celeste, was also wounded and had to have her legs amputated.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> "rock center." a week ago tonight at this very moment we were in the middle of hours 'ole rolling coverage in boston . by this time last week, we knew the danger had passed but also knew the terrible toll in boston . last week, natalie morales introduced us to the corcoran family, mother and daughter hospitalized together. they have survived life-threatening injuries and are only alive because of the kindness and quick thinking of those around them. and tonight natalie reports on this family's incredible bond.

>> reporter: it wasn't the birthday party 18-year-old sydney corcoran planned.

>> happy birthday .

>> thanks.

>> reporter: but the fact she can celebrate at all is extraordinary considering how seriously she and her mother se celeste were injured two weeks ago. the family had gathered at the boston marathon to cheer on celeste 's sister carmen. her brother tyler decided to stay home at the last minute. they were at the finish line when the bomb went off. these powerful images show sydney being helped by strangers, and celeste lying in the carnage. her husband kevin struggling to stop her bleeding.

>> instinct just takes over. you take your belt off, put a tourniquet on.

>> last week kevin and carmen sat down to tell us about that awful day.

>> i just laid down next to her and just told her i loved her and that everything would be okay and i just kissed her face and just gently carsed her as people were trying to get to her.

>> they were at the finish line waiting for me and i was terrified that my family was gone. everyone i loved was there.

>> they have been recovering together, literally in the same room at boston medical center . sydney suffered a severed femoral artery and celeste lost both of her legs. this week, they were strong enough to speak to us themselves. despite being so close to the blast, they never lost consciousness and remember every detail.

>> celeste , what about your memory of that very moment?

>> it was just -- it was just crazy. i knew that my sister was coming around soon. and i was -- i just kept scanning back and forth to see if i could see her.

>> reporter: but then --

>> when the bomb hit, i -- i just couldn't -- i immediately -- i think i was just down on the ground because of course it hit my legs. i just kept saying over and over in my head, no, no. so my husband was standing next to me. i had no idea if sydney was hurt or anything. i was just down and then his face was over my face and he was just like i've got you. you are hurt. i'm going to take care of you. and he saved my life.

>> reporter: the pain, she says, was excruciating.

>> i just wanted to die. you know what, actually the thought was there because i was in so much pain and then i just remember thinking, i can't. i can't. i don't want to leave my family, you know. just too much to do.

>> reporter: celeste had no idea her daughter sydney was also badly injured bleeding heavily from a severe leg wound. sydney hoarse from being intubated from surgery describes that day.

>> it was really difficult that day being so tired because all of the blood leaving my body. i turned white. my lips turned blue. i felt tingly like i was fading.

>> reporter: did you know at the time you were in that severe of a situation?

>> no. i mean at the moment we were pushed back i was in shock and i wasn't sure what happened. when i was in the ambulance, i think it completely dawned on me like i could be dying.

>> reporter: separated from her parents, sydney feared the worst.

>> i wanted to know where they were. i thought i was going to wake up and have no one left but my brother.

>> reporter: in the hospital that night sydney learned her mother had lived but she suffered a devastating injury.

>> i knew i at least had my mother. so really the legs don't mean anything to me. i know it's hard for her, but i'm glad i have her.

>> that's true. i mean i liked my legs but, you know, if i can get a new set of legs and still be here and go through the milestones, her graduation. i have an older son and so close to. i want to see everything in their lives. i'm not ready to leave. so, yeah. if it is with new legs, it's with new legs.

>> reporter: it's the second time a medical disaster has hit the corcoran 's three years ago sydney was hit by a car and spent a week in the hospital with a fractured skull. her brother tyler saw it all happened.

>> he thought she was dead that time. so for him to live through this, i feel like emotionally this has to be -- he is so strong. you know, we have all been through so much.

>> it was just horrible. i just didn't want to go through losing her again.

>> reporter: but this family is not just boston strong, they are corcoran strong.

>> we're all here. we're all alive. i got my baby with me. you know, i couldn't ask for more.

>> reporter: not that their resilience won't be tested. a few days ago celeste hit a low point until this visit from some wounded veterans.

>> i can't do anything.

>> right now, yes. but i'm telling you, with all of my heart, you are going to be more independent than you ever were.

>> reporter: gabriel martinez lost his legs in 2010 .

>> doesn't matter. this is a just a change of scenery.

>> what did they tell you to lift your spirits?

>> he came in here with his legs and i was amazed. he goes rock climbing . nothing he can't do. if you have the spirit and you want to do it i can absolutely achieve it.

>> reporter: newfound friends are among the biggest comfort, especially from bonds forged that day. jeff was captured in this unforgettable scene. he helped the fbi identify one of the bombers. after he visited sydney on her birthday, jeff, celeste and sydney talked about doing rehab together. before rehab begins, it's the little things that can bring a smile or cause a panic.

>> i understand you even had a little visit from bradley cooper , is that right?

>> yes.

>> yes.

>> reporter: tell me about that. that had to be exciting.

>> it was very exciting. very exciting. her heart monitor -- it is a funny story.

>> reporter: your heart monitor got higher.

>> i was so stressed out because at that point i hadn't washed my hair. i still had the debris and shrapnel, whatever. literally my hair was matted. and like i said i do hair and i had my glasses on and i was under no illusion that he was going to walk in and be star struck by me but i wanted to look my best for me.

>> he asked for permission if he could kiss me on my cheek. of course i said yes. i'm never going to forget that moment. here's our hero.

>> reporter: the leading man of sydney 's story is matt smith . one of the strangers who helped to save her life.

>> what was he doing at the time to help you that allowed you to feel calm and feel like everything was going to be okay?

>> he made sure that i was holding his hand and he kept telling me to squeeze it, make sure i could still do it. and he was holding my gaze the entire time. getting right up in my face and he kept saying just look at me, bud.

>> reporter: people like you were real heros that day. there could have been more bombs for all you knew. did that enter your mind whatsoever?

>> no. the only thing, you know, that we wanted to make sure she was okay.

>> reporter: the corcoran 's have also found peace knowing police have tracked down the people they believe are responsible. when you there was a capture, were you happy to hear that? did it hit you in any way.

>> i felt a relief.

>> so did i. i wanted the person to be brought to jchlustice. i don't want e i didn't want them to hurt anyone else. i don't want hate in my heart for this person. i truly believe they are sick. they have my pity.

>> reporter: the family knows they face a tough road but they will make it together.

>> there's times when everything kind of overwhelms you. i really believe if you persevere and believe in yourself, you have to dig down deep inside and be like, i can do this. it's going to be hard but i can do this.

>> first of all, how wonderful they let you in to the family.

>> they really have is.

>> and you have been able to televise this conversation. tell us about prognosis. obviously they are already having their ups and downs and obviously from bradley cooper to veterans they have had help. what's the prognosis.

>> a lot of emotional support which they so much need right now. but sydney is expected to make a full recovery. you saw she has a leg wound and her doctors say she may even get back to her dance troupe that she loves so much at her high school . of course that is great news. celeste , what is next for her is the long road to recovery. once you are a double amputee she will have to be fit with prosthetics later on but she's very much looking forward to getting back to the life she had before as a hair dresser . although, of course, life has changed so much for them. their new reality.

>> for all of the wrong reasons. we have so much technology to help them in this. we will stay on the story. thank you for your reporting.

>> my privilege and pleasure. thank you.

>> natalie morales here with us