Marine vet wounded at Pentagon on 9/11 reflects on her recovery through fitness training

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Marine Corps veteran Sarah Rudder is a survivor; and through her trauma came strength.

"CrossFit gave me that ability to be able to dump all that pain and emotion into something instead of someone," said Rudder.

You could say her journey to CrossFit began at age 17, when Rudder joined the Marines. Just days into her service she was injured in a training incident; she later suffered severe injuries in a car accident.

But she was back at work... on Sept. 11, 2001. Rudder was celebrating her promotion to lance corporal at the Pentagon.

"Within 10 minutes of my promotion the Pentagon was hit," said Rudder. "We actually thought it was an earthquake at the first second. And as soon as we looked up we had seen that the sky was on fire."

Rudder ran toward danger to help find survivors and recover those lost, further injuring her ankle and leg.

When her son turned five, Sarah decided to have her leg amputated.

In her desire to live her happiest and healthiest life she found CrossFit, and excelled. She competed in the 2021 CrossFit Games, adaptive division, where she medaled in third place.

"The challenge became the fun part for me," said Rudder.

Rudder urges veterans to visit Catch A Lift, an organization providing combat-wounded vets with gym memberships or equipment.

Sarah says she's found community in CrossFit - and the adaptive division creates a safe space for wounded warriors to succeed.

"We wanted to provide education for people to work with people with disabilities so that they're welcoming and prepared to work with that specific population," said Alec Zirkenbach, head judge with CrossFit Adaptive Games.

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