(Photo: A Leg Forever Founders Liz, JP and Paul Norden with SAS Representatives Fran Yanity and Rick Knowles at April 10th, 2015 Fundraiser for A Leg Forever)

“There had been twelve seconds between the two explosions…Just as they had been hoisting Jacqui over the barricade into the perceived safety of the street, they felt the rush of the second boom pummel their legs and back, dagger-like pain shooting throughout their bodies.” –Twice As Strong by JP and Paul Norden with David Smitherman.

JP and Paul Norden, brothers, were enjoying a warm sunny day at the 2013 Boston Marathon with a group of friends. One of their friends was running that day, and they were waiting to watch him finish so the group could all celebrate afterwards. Instead, tragedy changed the course of events. A bomb went off in the crowd not far from them, and before they could lift Paul’s girlfriend (now fiancé) to safety, another bomb went off right behind them. When each brother came to awareness they made a realization- one of their legs was no longer attached. Both brothers lost their right leg.

Months of hospitalization and rehab followed. The brothers fought off infection, pneumonia, and other medical setbacks. Emotionally, the brothers knew they could no longer work as roofers but would have to change their careers, not to mention their whole way of life. Financially, huge hospital bills plagued them, and several prosthetic limbs (each costing at least $100,000) made rehabilitation even more stressful. But these two brothers didn’t give up.

With the aid of their family, the mentorship of an ex-pro wrestler (who had recovered from a paralyzed leg himself), other friends and countless strangers who contributed to help, these two brothers conquered seemingly impossible challenges and came out even stronger. As a result, these two are an encouragement to others. As it is put in their book, Twice as Strong, “It was difficult for both of them to realize they were in such a vulnerable position, they had to rely on the help of others as they recovered. And while they are simply handling it the best way they know how, they continue to unknowingly inspire others.”

Now these two brothers, along with their mother, want to pay it forward. The family founded A Leg Forever, a charitable foundation with the mission to help other amputees as the brothers were once helped. Whether it’s with finances to help pay for prosthetics, emotional support, or to bring awareness to the challenges that amputees face, the foundation helps others to keep moving. One example is a 14-year-old boy from Massachusetts who lost his leg in a car accident. Thanks to A Leg Forever, he will be able to make the adjustments needed to fit his prosthetic leg to his growing body (info on the Foundation’s Facebook page). A number of others have received support from the foundation and reports keep rolling into their social media feed.

With a similar mission to help others to Keep Moving™, San Antonio Shoemakers are sponsoring the foundation’s Six Boston Marathon runners for the 2015 race. With gratitude, A Leg Forever President and Founder Liz Norden expressed, “We received such an outpouring of love and support from family and strangers during that tragic time in our lives. We were inspired to give back that same support to others facing a similar situation and give them a ray of hope. Together with San Antonio Shoemakers, we can lend a helping hand to families when they need it most.”

In spite of the tragedy that struck the hearts of Americans in April of 2013 and dramatically changed the lives of JP and Paul Norden and their family, the Nordens look to the future. Their courage and heart to pay it forward shows us all how to deal with the unexpected. As stated near the end of Twice As Strong, “No matter how much time passes, no matter how many successes or failures one experiences, there will be memories that can never be wiped away. But maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe it’s better to hold on to those memories, no matter how good or bad they may seem, because with time everything changes and evolves.” That evolution is in no doubt fueled by the Nordens dedication and heart to help others, to pay it forward, to keep moving.

Notes: Information in the above article was based on the book Twice As Strong by JP and Paul Norden with David Smitherman.

To learn more about the SAS sponsorship, click here.

To find out how to help A Leg Forever yourself, visit www.alegforever.com.

Feel free to visit one of San Antonio Shoemakers’ Boston area locations in Denham or Brookline.