The Team Jesse Foundation
Mission: To provide education and support for families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams


Mission: To provide education and support to families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams

Disaster Recovery (Day Ninety-One)

Back in Annapolis, we had made the decision to put aside our feelings about Hurricane Irene. Specifically, there was a tendency for the Team to, in dealing with our frustration around the tremendous inconvenience she had caused, make fun of her. We would call her a ‘non-event’ and other less-flattering things that would help us cope with the frustration of her timing. I’m glad that we put a gag order on making light of her publicly. Because here in New Jersey, she’s not a joke. Not at all. Ninety-One began with no precipitation, but it would find us eventually. A few team members were rocking sore throats and the onset of cold symptoms, with our leader being among the affected, and actually in the worst condition of all. We pressed on. It would take much worse to sideline this crew, so with commitment we rode. The population density was really becoming more and more evident at this point. Here in New Jersey, one town begins where the other one ends; there is no rural break to separate them. Each has their own personality as well, so traveling though these areas on bicycles really gave us the opportunity to understand them each for what made them unique. Summit became Millburn which them became West Orange and so on and so on. The connectedness of communities was evident, and I thought this was true only in their geographical orientation. I would later be proven wrong about this. As we rode and the rains picked up again, we began to see more and more damage from Irene – flooded homes, felled trees, debris in the street, homes with no power, sandbags, etc. It clearly hadn’t helped any of these communities that we’re again in the middle of a heavy storm front. It’s sort of like kicking a man when he’s down, I think, to see the reeling communities getting pummeled again by rain and water coursing cruelly through their streets. It might be a little bit until its completely back to normal here in New Jersey. We checked into our hotel and found that the first floor was closed due to flooding. They still were putting guests into the upper floors, but it was still telling to see, up close and personal, the effects of flooding. Irene and her mutant sister wrecked the first floor of the hotel.

It was all business and all hands on deck once we were checked in. We divided and conquered following a meeting that we had to discuss the mountain of logistics, both on and off the bikes, that stands between us and a strong finish. We broke for dinner, and prior to our separation as a group, Mark Larson commented that it was cool that most of the other guests in the hotel were relief workers. Leave it to Larson to notice that. I wish it had been me saying it (or even thinking it) but maybe I’ll have the opportunity to beat him to the punch another day. Hmmm…not sure on that one…

Neither the AC nor the heat worked in my room, so I ventured to the overwhelmed froint desk attendant to ask for a fan. In waiting, I struck conversation with some of the relief workers and learned about Omar Helms. Omar is a soldier in the US Army and he is about to deploy to Afghanistan. His brother, Saleem, upon finding out about Team Jesse, told me about him and with enthusiasm, dug into his pockets to donate to our cause. Saleem is a Disaster Recovery guy that’s here from Durham, NC. He and his crew will be onsite for two months dealing with the devastation.

After hearing each other’s stories, we decided that a pic would be appropriate. After some discussion, we agreed that a solemn, ‘no-teeth’ picture would be in order. I handed my camera to one of his friends, and as we posed and he was snapping the pic, he asked ‘Have either of you ever [had a relationship with] a mermaid?’ Teeth were impossible to hide, and his lighthearted friend had brought a little humor into the our lives and also those of the crowd around us. We laughed harder than it had rained the day before.

It’s all about the people. Omar, come home safe!

For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri