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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 21st, 2014
06:17 PM ET

Brothers move on after Boston bombing: J.P. & Paul Norden each lost a leg in the attacks

Last year, J.P. and Paul Norden went to the Boston Marathon to cheer on a friend. A few blocks from where they were standing, an explosion ripped through the crowds.

"We were confused," J.P. said. "Some people were scared, some people started crying immediately."

"One of our friends was like that was a bomb, the other was like we need to get in the street," said Paul.

Unfortunately for J.P. and Paul, they were standing at the site of the second bomb

"When I started coming to I tried to get up, I tried to get up with this side," said J.P., gesturing to his right side. "And I couldn't get up, my leg was gone."

When Paul came to, he said he realized right away his right leg was gone.

"You could just see bodies on the ground everywhere, people everywhere," J.P. recalls of that horrific day. "You could just smell, I guess it was blood and burned clothes."

Paul managed to call his mom and tell her they were both hurt, badly.

"i knew he wouldn't call me just to tell me a bomb had gone off. I knew something was wrong," says Liz Norden.

Medical staff rushed them to different hospitals. When they arrived, the outlook was grim. Each was missing their right leg and would need emergency surgery.

Paul was in far worse shape, his mom says.

"Paul was really bad off," says Liz. "Honestly, we really didn't think he was going to make it."

J.P. started to heal, but his brother Paul remained in a coma for a week. He was the final patient from the bombing listed in critical condition. But the family kept the news from J.P.

"My mom's a good liar," says Paul.

"I kept asking her everyday, hey can I talk to Paul? And I guess if I'd been thinking a little straighter, I would have known I was being lied to. But at the same time, I was going into surgery every other day. I figured he was doing the same. I knew we were in rough shape. She didn't want me worrying about him," said J.P.

Their reunion finally came in the hallways of Beth Israel Hospital.

"It was the first time I really got to see how injured he really was. That was hard because I don't want to see anyone hurt," said Paul.

For the past year the two have been in and out of surgery and rehabilitation hospitals, regaining their strength and learning to walk again.

They've written a book about their experiences, "Twice As Strong."

"What they've endured and what they've come through, it's amazing, it's incredible," says their mother.

The brothers rarely talk about the other brothers, whose bombs redirected the course of their lives. Their mother, though, is closely watching the capital murder and terrorism trial against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

"I'll be there every day," she says. "I want to know what happened. I want to know why, or how, or who could do this to innocent people."

"I don't want to give the kid any acknowledgement at all," says Paul. "I'm going to be living as normal as possible."

Normal will have to mean getting back to work. The One Fund Boston awarded the brothers each just under $1.2 million dollars. But that money won't last forever. They will need new prosthetic legs every three to five years at a cost of more than $100,000 a leg. They are in the process of starting their own roofing and sheet metal company.

The brothers do not know if the funds and their projected income will be enough.

"If you've gotta get a leg every three to five years, and I live my life expectancy – I probably don't have enough, but I gotta do what I gotta do," Paul says.

"I would like to think we'll be okay no matter what. We're going to work, we're going to do all that. But I don't know," says J.P.

For now, on this one year anniversary, the brothers look, and feel, great.

"Compared to last year ... I feel 3000 times better," says J.P.

"Our family, friends, our girlfriends, the public, they just were so good. They gave you positive thoughts and positive words all the time, how could we fail? I mean I don't think that we could," he said.

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