updated 06/07/2013 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 06/09/2013 AT 7:30 PM ET
Of all the challenges they’ve had to face, say the amputee survivors of the Boston Marathon, coping with the loss of their independence has been one of the greatest.
“Picking things up off the floor, getting food, things that I used to be able to do independently now I no longer can do,” says single leg amputee Mery Daniel, 31, who appears on PEOPLE’s cover this week.
In these exclusive PEOPLE videos, Daniel, the mother of a 5-year-old daughter, as well as fellow survivors Adrianne Haslet, Nicole Gross, Erika Brannock, Roseann Sdoia, Marc Fucarile and Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, open up about adjusting to life on crutches and in wheelchairs.
“This has obviously changed me in that now I don’t have my legs,” says Celeste Corcoran, 47, a hairdresser from Lowell, Mass., who lost both limbs in the blasts.
And yet, her physical transformation aside, says Corcoran, she’s happy to be alive for her family, including husband Kevin, 48, son Tyler, 20, and daughter Sydney, 18, who was recently crowned prom queen at her high school.
“Emotionally,” she says, “it’s made me appreciate life so much more.”