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Face-to-face in court with the man accused of planting a bomb that cost her her leg, Boston Marathon attack survivor Rebekah Gregory had one thought: This didn't destroy me.
Instead, Gregory said, she has a new purpose — inspiring other people. She even has a sense of humor about her prosthetic leg, which she named Felicia.
Sporting fingernails painted blue and gold, in honor of the "Boston Strong" rallying cry that has graced T-shirts and bumper stickers since the 2013 attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others, Gregory casually brushed her hand through her hair Wednesday and looked directly at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the first day of his trial.
"At first, I was adamant that I didn't even want to sit near him," she told NBC News' Peter Alexander. "Then at the last minute, I was like, no — I want him to look in the eyes of the people that he hurt that day. So I kept looking at him, hoping I could just catch his eyes one time. And he would not look at me. Not once."
"I think for as big and bad as he claims to be, he's just a coward," she said.
Gregory, 27, was with her then-boyfriend and her young son, Noah, when the explosions rocked the finish line. After enduring 17 surgeries and unbearable pain in her left leg, she decided to have it amputated. Noah, now 7, approved.
"I'm going to have the coolest robot mom!" he told her before her surgery.
Since the attack, Gregory has found solace in being a motivational speaker. In a letter to Tsarnaev that she posted on Facebook after court on Wednesday, she told him, "You can't handle the fact that what you tried to destroy, you only made stronger." The letter went viral.
"I truly believe that I've found my purpose in life, and it's to inspire and encourage other people," she said. "If my words can do something like that for someone, I would get blown up again tomorrow."
Smiling, she told Alexander that she is adjusting to life as an amputee, and that it helped to name the prosthetic.
"I got Felicia a month and a half ago," Gregory said. "She is a new addition to my family. I made her a birth announcement and everything."
The word "blessed" is printed on the prosthetic.
"That's the only word to describe how I feel. I'm still here. I was three feet away from a bomb," she said.
Gregory is training to run the next Boston Marathon.
"When you lose a leg, you realize how much you took them for granted before. So now with my legs, I want to do everything. I want to run, I want to dance," she said. "That is me taking my life back, and I can't wait."
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