This past Friday in Asheville, North Carolina, Pete DiMartino and his new wife, Rebekah Gregory DiMartino, sealed their marriage vows with the kiss above. Then they took a hold of each other, and Pete led Rebekah back down the aisle. That first walk as man and wife is special for every pair of newlyweds, but it was especially poignant for Pete and Rebekah. You see, leading up to the nuptials, Rebekah wasn't sure that it would happen. Last April, the couple was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, and Rebekah hasn't walked on her own since.
Rebekah and Pete met in March 2012 in Rochester, New York. She was in the city on a business trip and had visited the restaurant where Pete was bartending. Despite living in different states, the two connected on Facebook and stayed in touch, eventually making their long-distance relationship official that fall. In April 2013, Rebekah traveled north with her six-year-old son to see Pete for her birthday. "And that was when we went to Boston for the marathon," says Pete.
Pete, Rebekah, and Rebekah's son, along with other members of Pete's family, had stationed themselves about 50 or so yards from the finish line to cheer on Pete's mom as she ran the race. They were right by the first bomb when it went off. "I didn't really know what my injuries were because they were on the back of my leg, so I couldn't see them at first," says Pete. "I thought I was pretty good but then realized I wasn't." His injuries included damage to 90 percent of his Achilles tendon. As for Rebekah, "The bomb basically destroyed my left leg from the knee down," she says. "I also had all of my bones completely exposed in my left hand."
Thankfully, RebekahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s son, who was in the hospital for about five days, is "doing great now, running around like nothing ever happened," says Pete. Pete was in a hospital and rehab center for 38 days total before returning to Rochester. Rebekah had been rushed to another hospital in Boston and was then moved to a Houston hospital for 56 days total for her injuries. She's had a total of 16 surgeries so far, with another three or four to go, and she currently uses either a wheelchair or crutches, depending on how she's feeling and how far she has to go, because of the damage to her left leg. She's planning to have an amputation this June or July.
"When I was lying on the ground on Boylston Street, not knowing if I was even going to make it, I knew at that point that if I did make it, I wanted to spend every single day with Pete," says Rebekah. "And being in a hospital and being away from him only confirmed that more for me. The thought of losing him that dayÃ¢â‚¬”or any day, for that matterÃ¢â‚¬”is just a thing that I can't even put into my head, because it's something that can't happen. I don't know what I would do if I lost him."
"We had talked about marriage before the bombings," says Pete, "but what really solidified it for me was, after I was back in Rochester, I really had some time to sit back and look at the whole picture, and I realized that my life just wasn't complete without her in it. And that's when I went and got a ring."
Pete popped the question on October 4, 2013 in Houston. He wasn't allowed to fly following recent eardrum reconstructive surgery, so he drove more than 1,500 miles from Rochester to Texas, and gave Rebekah a double surprise: his presence and a proposal.
The couple got another surprise when TheKnot.com chose them as recipients of The Knot Dream Wedding for 2014Ã¢â‚¬”people around the country voted on everything from the couple's location to the wedding theme, the flowers, the cake, and even Rebekah's dress, all of which were provided to the couple free of charge.
But despite all of the decisions being made for her, there was one aspect that Rebekah resolved to make happen: "I was determined to walk down the aisle," she says. "I still can't walk, so I had to have a leg crutch on under my dress, but I did it. I crutched without my regular crutches down the aisle, and that was just a huge accomplishment for me."
Rebekah's father and son traveled down the aisle with her and gave her away. Seeing Rebekah come toward him with no visible crutches, no wheelchair, "was pretty intense," says Pete. "I was on the brink of having a breakdown, but I held it together." Then Rebekah went back up that aisle with her new husband by her side, and they even got to have their first dance. "That was a very triumphant moment," says Rebekah.
Now that their big wedding day is over, the couple is so ready for married life. "We just went over the big hill in the rollercoaster," says Pete. "We had this wedding; it was like the buildup for the past few months. And now we're going to hopefully plateau for a while."
MORE: This Woman Lost Both of Her Legs During the Boston Bombings and Her Recovery Is Remarkable