Posted on October 28, 2016
Lori Falcone is a Semper Fi Fund Community Athlete who will be running in the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon—her first marathon ever—on October 30. And while she never served in the military (her father served in the Army and her uncle served in the Marines), she shares something very significant with many of the service members assisted by the Semper Fi Fund every day: She’s grateful to be alive.
“I was in a car accident in 2011,” says the Yonkers, New York, native who currently lives with her husband in Connecticut, “so my greatest accomplishment is that I am here to tell my story.”
That story begins on a Monday in August 2011 when Lori met a friend for lunch. They were sitting outside a cafe enjoying the weather and conversation when a 92-year-old driver, pulling into the empty parking space directly facing where Lori was sitting, mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal.
The driver “hit me head-on and barreled me through the restaurant until I and two others were pinned to the counter with the car still running,” she recalls. “Sometimes people are in the right place at the right time, and the manager of the shopping center was fortunately there for me. He had to make the difficult decision to either pull me out from the car and risk paralyzing me or watch me bleed.”
“Luckily he pulled me out and saved my life,” Lori continues. “I think of him often, especially when I’m faced with a tough decision.”
Lori says she doesn’t remember the incident itself, but she does recall being in the ambulance.
“I knew from the paramedics’ faces and dialogue that it was bad. I was determined to get in touch with my husband and let him know that I loved him, and that if something happened to me, I wanted him to be happy and know it was okay for him to move on. Those first few hours are blurry at best, but one thing was clear: I was determined to fight and not give up.”
Fight she did. After two days in intensive care, a month-long stay in the hospital and many months of recovery, Lori progressed from hospital bed to wheelchair to walker to crutches to a cane—and eventually to walking on her own.
“I will always remember the day I took a first step on my own,” she says. “It was a long road, but one I was lucky to be on.”
Now the road she’s on stretches 26.2 miles into the distance and she couldn’t be happier.
“One of the commitments I made was if I was able to walk again, I wanted to do a marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money. Instead, they celebrate the honor, courage and commitment of all finishers. I am proudly raising money for the Semper Fi Fund to help our military personnel and their families.”
Lori worked her way up to marathon distance by running one 5K race, two 10K races and seven half marathons. For her first marathon she has already exceeded her goal of raising $3,500 for the Fund (as of the date this story was published her fundraising page shows she’s at $3,600) and says that her choice of the Fund as beneficiary was a clear one.
“I did not know much about the Fund,” she told us. “At first, I thought it was just for the Marines. The more research I did, though, I was so inspired to help raise money for our wounded, critically ill and injured service members, and their families, of every branch. I was so fortunate to have the resources I needed during my recovery, I wanted to pay it forward. Every day our service personnel sacrifice so much—it’s the least I can do.”
Looking back over the past five years, Lori says she’s learned and embraced some important life lessons.
“Live your life,” she says. “Don’t put off things, do them today. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Spend more time with family and friends, they are what really matters—and remember to tell them that. Don’t sweat the small stuff, because when the big, important things come, you will need your energy.”
“Believe in yourself,” she continues. “You are stronger than you know and are capable of anything you put your mind to; be your positive force. Ask for help when you need it: it’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, confidence and courage. Pay that forward and be a stabilizing hand to lift others up.”
“And last, but certainly not least: Don’t sit outdoors facing a parking spot.”