When Erika Brannock was a guest of the Orioles during a game at Camden Yards last June, she was still in a wheelchair but vowed to return in 2014 to throw out a first pitch before a game.
Less than a year after the 29-year-old Brannock lost her left leg in the Boston Marathon bombings, the Towson preschool teacher is now walking with prosthesis. Before the Orioles' game vs. the Red Sox on Thusday -- with the aid of a walker -- she threw out the first pitch to her favorite Oriole, first baseman Chris Davis.
“I’m really excited to do it, but at the same time I’m nervous that I won’t throw it straight,” Brannock said with a smile. “It’s really cool to be able to do it, especially in this game between the Orioles and the Red Sox, which are two teams that have really done a lot for me. Both cities have a very special place in my heart. I’m conflicted in the game. I’m trying to stay neutral, but it’s really exciting.
“We always knew we wanted it to be in a Red Sox game, so it’s been in the back ofmy mind since then.”
Brannock plans to return to Boston later this month for the marathon, where she hopes to be at the finish line – where both of her legs were severely injured by a bomb – to root for her mother, just like she did last year.
“Our whole family will be back up there,” Brannock said. "My mom, my sister and my brother-in-law and I will all be there. My mom’s going to run the marathon again, so she’s going to finish it, and we’re going to be at the finish line to hug her and celebrate with her.”
Brannock said her return to Boston – the Orioles will be playing against the Red Sox on Patriots' Day, too -- will be full of mixed emotions.
“I definitely think it’s going to be very emotional,” Brannock said. “But I think it’s going to be very healing at the same time, to kind of bring closure to the whole experience and show everyone that helped me up there, and the whole city and the staff at Beth Israel Medical Center the progress that I’ve made, show that determination that I am not going to let this change who I am and just really go and thank them. It’s definitely going to be a very emotional trip for sure.”
Brannock lost her left leg above the knee and needed multiple surgeries to save her right leg. She was the last marathon bombing victim to be released from the hospital after a 50-day stay.
She had a setback in January when she had a bone infection, but quickly returned to her rehab and resumed walking.
On Thursday, she wore an Orioles jersey and a smile. She’s returned to teaching – and some lessons have been personal – while continuing rehab and her studies.
“Life is crazy,” she said. “Between doctors appointments and going to work, I’ve started working more frequently and being able to teach more, actually. I taught a lesson to some of the kids I taught last year about people’s differences and how they can look physically different.
“I actually got down on the floor and sat criss-cross, apple-sauce with my kids,” she said. “It was really cool to be able to do that. Going back to school to finish up my master’s [degree]. Next year, I’m supposed to be student teaching. Cross my fingers that everything works out well. So, just kind of getting back to my life and my routine of things.”