Forever changed by bombings, couple remains "Boston Strong"

BOSTON -- On April 15, 2013, Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes had been married seven months when they stopped to watch the Boston Marathon. Their lives were changed forever by the homemade bombs that exploded at the finish line.

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Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky's engagement photo.
Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky/CBS News

The first blast destroyed both of their left legs and badly damaged her right. It would be two weeks before they saw each other again.

In the hospital, the couple was visited by a group of Marines, including B.J. Ganem.

"We just went into the hospital rooms and just asked if they wanted us to come in," Ganem recalls. "Immediately, there was an instant connection."

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Boston Marathon bombing survivor Patrick Downes, left, and B.J. Ganem of the Semper Fi Fund.
CBS News

"All of the sudden, I see these big, strong, not-so-good-looking guys walk into my hospital room -- and they've all got prosthetics," Downes remembers. "In that short time that I had been in the hospital, I had crossed off all these things in my life that I wasn't going to be able to do anymore -- running, climbing, biking."

They were members of the Semper Fi Fund, an organization for disabled vets.

"They didn't have to keep coming back, they didn't have to give us handbikes -- but they came, and they gave us so much a piece of them," Downes says. "That will forever be a part of our experience."

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Jessica Kensky
CBS News

Kensky made the agonizing decision to have her second leg amputated and isn't ready to talk on camera yet.

But she did testify at convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial, telling the jury the amputations were especially difficult because, "I wanted to paint my toenails, put my feet in the sand."

"The feet aren't there anymore," Downes says. "We have to find ways to make her feel beautiful, make her feel special, make her feel like a woman."

Ganem chimes in with, "Maybe you should let her paint your toenails."

Downes replies, "Well, that has actually been put on the table once before..."

Two years on, Downes says the 2013 explosions and everything that followed has both strained and strengthened their marriage.

"We've been able to find strength in our moments of weakness," Downes says.

And when asked if he can still see himself and his wife in their engagement picture, Downes replies, "Oh, yeah! You can see the sass on Jess' face."

But it's another photo that best defines the couple now: Crossing the finish line at last year's marathon, together.

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Boston Marathon husband and wife bombing survivors Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who each lost a leg in the 2013 bombings, roll across the finish line in the 118th Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, 2014 in Boston.
AP Photo/Elise Amendola