When A September 11th Injury Interrupted This Marine’s Dream, Sarah Rudder Got Up and Kept Running

When she was just 12 years old, Sarah Rudder watched the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Team perform and knew that she wanted to be a Marine. Five years later, at seventeen, she enlisted in the Marine Corps.

On September 11, 2001, Sarah was promoted to Lance Corporal in a ceremony outside the Pentagon. The ceremony stopped abruptly when they felt what they thought was an earthquake, but within minutes, flames and smoke filled the sky. Without a second thought, Sarah, and the rest of the Marines she was with, ran to the Pentagon to assist in whatever way they could. As she pulled a non-survivor from the wreckage, concrete fell onto her left foot and shattered her ankle. She continued to help first responders, unaware that her ankle had been broken. 

It was not until the next day, when Sarah sat down for the first time since the attack, that she realized that she had severely injured her ankle–her boot was all that was holding it in place. Over the next several years, Sarah had several reconstructive surgeries, but ultimately decided to amputate her leg due to nerve damage causing intense pain. 

Though her leg was no longer causing pain, Sarah continued to feel “off.” She did not talk about her injury or that day for the next ten years. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with a TBI and PTSD. This diagnosis brought a sense of relief for Sarah– “It justified how I had felt over the years.” She soon began treatment, and during her treatment she met Semper Fi & America’s Fund.

The Fund has walked alongside Sarah in her recovery process ever since. With assistance from The Home Depot Foundation, The Fund installed hardwood flooring in her home so that she could easily move about on crutches or in her wheelchair. “It was a lifesaver,” Sarah said. Additionally, The Fund, in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, extended her driveway so that she can easily load her wheelchair in and out of her car.

Since her injury, Sarah has reached new heights, becoming an accomplished athlete. She has competed in the Warrior Games from 2015 to 2017 in Track and Field and Swimming, and she just competed at the first adaptive CrossFit Games, which took place this summer, and came in third place in the Lower Extremity Adaptive Division. 

Of The Fund, Sarah says: “From day one, they have never stopped supporting me in all of my endeavors. They are always there to help and listen. My case manager, in particular, has been amazing because she pays attention to me and anticipates my needs. Just being present sometimes is enough.”

For Sarah Rudder, her road to recovery is a lifelong journey, but she keeps going because for her, “quitting is not an option.”

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