The Journey of NEM
by Erika Brannock, illustrated by John F. Baker III
Released April 7, 2018
When injuries from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing took preschool teacher Erika Brannock's leg, she decided to write a book to let young children know that when a hard thing happens to them, it is not going to defeat them; to understand that it s OK to be different, because we are all different in our own ways. The main character, a dragonfly named NEM, represents perseverance and strength, and guides the reader through adversity to a happy ending.
Until 2:49 on the afternoon of April 15, 2013, Erika Brannock led the quiet life of a preschool teacher in Towson, Maryland, working on a master s degree in early childhood education. Everything changed when a bomb exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line, and she was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where teams of doctors and nurses saved her life, but could not save her left leg. They amputated above the knee, and did their best to repair major damage to her right ankle, as well. After 50 days in the hospital and multiple surgeries, Erika was able to return home to Baltimore. In the months that followed, she endured 12 additional surgeries to repair her many injuries. With an indomitable spirit and determined optimism, Erika battled through setbacks, grueling rehab, and learned to walk with a prosthetic leg. She adapted to her new normal, and resumed doing what she loves most: teaching preschoolers. Erika is often asked to share her inspiring story and has given many presentations at high schools, hospitals, on television, and in a Towson University TEDx talk. She is eager to spread her messages about the healing powers of positive thinking and gratitude, and, as she now stresses to her preschoolers, the importance of accepting others as they are and celebrating our differences.