When Boston Marathon bombing victim Erika Brannock arrived home to Baltimore this week, the first item on her wish list was finding the stranger who saved her life amid the chaos that followed the April attack.
The 29-year-old Towson preschool teacher looked directly into a bank of television cameras from an airport terminal and made a plea to the woman she knew only as "Joan from California." She said, "I don't know if you're even watching, but Joan, I would love to find you and tell you thank you and give you a hug."
On Wednesday, she got that chance.
The women — "Joan" is actually Amanda North — were reunited at the rehabilitation center in Baltimore where Brannock is recovering, after CNN viewers responded to the network's search for the heroine. They sobbed when they saw each other and embraced for several seconds.
"I had this horrible feeling I was going to die, I could sense something was really wrong," Brannock said to North during the reunion, which aired on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."
"Right away, you came right up to me and you grabbed my hand and you told me you weren't going to let go, and you didn't."
Said North, "I felt like there was a reason I was there. I felt a compulsion to go over to you."
"They are two people who are now forever joined," Carin Michel of Towson, a family friend of Brannock's, told The Baltimore Sun. "To have such a beautiful relationship come out of something so tragic, is really fitting for Erika. She is always able to find joy and optimism where others might not be able to. It was an incredibly emotional and important moment for both of them."
Brannock's left leg was amputated above the knee as a result of the injuries she sustained in the attack, and her right leg was severely injured. She was standing near the finish line with her sister and brother-in-law, Nicole and Michael Gross. They were positioned to watch Brannock's mother, Carol Downing, finish the 26.2-mile race.
North, who is from California, also was standing near the finish line, waiting to watch her daughter, a Harvard student, complete the marathon. North suffered severe cuts and lacerations. North said her daughter plans to run in a future race to raise money for Brannock's medical expenses.
According to Brannock's recollection, North, "as if she heard my thoughts," came to her aid, removing her belt to be used as a tourniquet and flagging down help.
"If it weren't for her, screaming for everyone, I don't think I would be alive," Brannock told The Sun in an earlier interview.
Brannock was rushed to Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where she was the first victim to arrive and the last to be discharged, on Monday. The two women did not exchange information, and never expected to see each other again.
CNN reported both women's hearing was compromised in the bomb blast, which is why Brannock misunderstood North's name as "Joan." North told the network she thought Brannock's name was "Irene."
Randi Kaye, a CNN correspondent, asked viewers Monday night to help find "Joan." The network created an email address for tips, "email@example.com," and aired a Boston Globe photo of a woman assisting Brannock after the bomb exploded.
Shortly after the program aired, the network received an email with the subject line "That's me!" North hadn't seen the show, but her friends recognized her in the photo and alerted her to the search.
When the women saw each other again for the first time, North said, "Look at you. Look at you. I have thought about you every moment, and I didn't know how to get a hold of you. I didn't know what had happened to you.
"I wanted you to have [a hug], too."
A fund has been established to help Erika Brannock with her lifelong medical expenses. To help, go to http://www.thebrannockfund.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun