The City of Brotherly Love (Day Eighty-Seven)
She felt as if she’d missed something; she searched her mind and young memory for a way to understand, a way to solve the mystery. What was happening? Who were those men in uniform? One of them looked like her daddy with the way he was dressed. But, neither one of them was him. Why was mommy crying? Her brother was of no help; he had bolted through the door right after the men had left and mommy had pulled him aside. He had slammed the door on his way out and he was also crying, and he wasn’t even trying to hide it. When would mommy come out of her room? Had she done something wrong?
And so it must begin for the families of the fallen. Initial shock and confusion followed by the grim duty of helping kids getting their heads around the unfolding tragedy before they can even be angry or grieve. Where does one put her/his own emotion during this time? The shock and spiraling horror of a newfound reality that would exist without the centerpiece, the rock, the breadwinner, the hero. He would never return, and no one expected this to actually happen. What now? How does the story continue, and when will the pain go away?
There are no easy answers, and many who have been through this unspeakable pain would say that the hard part is yet to come. The initial shock is a defense mechanism, and it protects them. They’re surrounded by sympathetic friends and families and even the military programs that attempt to help are in full swing at that point. Years later, though, when everyone goes back to their lives and support slips away, the tough road becomes a lonely one as well. And so we are committed to finding a way to help, if even just a little. For now, we do it with a Ride. We honor a promise that was made from one soldier to another; we push ourselves and are committed to sacrifice. We are serving a purpose more important than ourselves, and we will not stop until we’ve done what we set out to do. We are doing the one thing that those fallen heroes would ask in return for their own sacrifice; we’re going to create opportunities for their families as best we can, and we’ll tell their stories until we’re blue in the face. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s what we will do. Day Eighty-Seven began with a lighthearted exit from the Valley Forge area. I’m always grateful when we’re able to have a cheerful approach at the outset of any given course, as it will lead to a more productive day, both on and off the bikes. A miscue around some proactive bike maintenance allowed for some joking around and got us all laughing a bit. So, it was a great start to a day that would be rewarding. We headed over to the Schuylkill River Trail, a worn yet well-kept exercise path that runs parallel to the river. It was crowded but enjoyable; the day was a pleasant one, once again, and the lack of humidity, holiday weekend and slow breeze had the trail surging with all types of people doing even more types of wellness. It’s a very bike-friendly city, Philadelphia, and the city’s commitment to the sport shows clear. The trail wound though industrial areas, parks and found itself fast approaching the city. Once again, memories flooded back as we spun into the urban sprawl. I spent a large part of my youth in The City of Brotherly Love, as Philadelphia is known, and I was excited to show the city to Mince and the team. There were some very significant happenings in Philly over the years, to say the least, so our historical bent continued. We paid a quick visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as its legendary grand form is not to be missed. We took the opportunity to pay tribute to the Rocky theme that has come up, often in jest, on The Ride. Running up those stairs was surreal, and I almost twisted an ankle doing it. Yeah, bikes shoes aren’t the best for jogging. Mostly just glad to have avoided the sting to my pride; I would have never lived that one down, even if the cameras weren’t rolling! After stopping for some of Philly’s finest cheesesteaks at Jim’s on South Street, we headed to our lodging for the two-day stay. It was a place I’d been excited to see, and also to share with the Team. My dad opened the door with a huge smile on his face. He and my stepmom, Patsy, have been very excited to host us, and they have met Kevin several times in the past. They were also glad to see Messick and meet the rest of the crew. They’re phenomenal hosts, and the stay in Philly will be much more meaningful because of them. Their home is in the Rittenhouse Square area, so it’s central to the city and we’ll have no problem in finding the pulse while we’re here. Eighty-Seven will end just outside of Philadelphia; we’ll be travelling to a small town called Media. It’s Adam Messick’s hometown, and he has arranged for some of his friends and family to greet us and also allow us the opportunity to be included in their lives. It’s great to have that opportunity; for myself, seeing family on this leg of the journey has been irreplaceable. I’m sure that Adam will feel the same way when he sees his own. Kevin is only days away from seeing his entire crew, including Mama Bear, Papa bear and all three of his siblings.
The little girl that I attempted to describe at the beginning of this post will have no such opportunity. And so we ride…
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,