The Hardest Post I’ll Ever Write

Sleeping in, free range to the snacks all night, a day without schedule- these are luxuries we have dreamt about for weeks, but this morning they are a bitter reminder of the friend we have lost.

There are no words to describe the depth of this tragedy. I won’t bother with the “where I was when it happened”- we were all somewhere, on our bikes. We all saw the ambulance, the police. We got the vague, firm texts. We were terrified.

Instead imagine that morning-at 4:30 am it was still dark. The moon was full, fat, and sitting close to the horizon. Bridget let me use her diaper rash cream, because that is how we Bike&Builders roll. Patrick was making us all laugh. He was such a morning person, probably since he sleeps with his eye mask on, or due to his superior coffee beans for his little French press (both of which his girlfriend, he proudly stated, had gifted him). The day before we had laughed about that eyemask, Patrick admitting that his dad always wore one and he used to find it silly.

Readers, it was a beautiful morning to ride. The sunrise was at our back like any classic westward adventure. Feilds of little sunflowers turned their heads to us, rings of yellow pedals mimicking our backlit ascent. Only just yesterday we had begun to see the red clay cliffs jut from the rolling landscape. Today marked our first tumbleweed, our first cactus. 

If you have followed my writing, perhaps you have an idea at how triumphant we felt at this moment. Our bodies are changed, the bruises are fading. By now we have faced the freezing rains of Maine, the potholes of Massachusetts, the semis of Ohio, the mountains of Pennsylvania, the humidity of Missouri, and the headwinds of Oklahoma. We have learned to sense each other’s weak moments, to give before another needs, to share space and step back. We crossed our first time zone, we crossed our halfway mark.

We ached, but we knew we were almost in Texas, and we biked  all the way here from Maine.

It rained is Sayre, Oklahoma later that morning when our leaders, Brittany and Tyler, drove our van and painted trailer to where we waited. How fitting that it would rain then, after we have been waiting for rain since crossing into Oklahoma. Sam’s face still as stone, her voice remained level as she hearded us into a small cafe, directed us and our bikes and our gear. Most of us were already crying at that point, having some idea of how bad the news would be.

The next moments are too painful to retell. Bridget and Patrick were hit by a car. The driver had been texting.

Acts of heroism bloomed between Cordell, Oklahoma and Wheeler, Texas that day. A couple witnessing the accident (for lack of a better word) stayed with our friend Bridget while they waited for the ambulance, contacted her parents and, when they weren’t able to join her in the helicopter, drove three hours to Oklahoma City just to make sure she was not alone. They were total strangers. Our three leaders, Sam, Tyler, and Britney not only shouldered the weight of loosing their friend and coleader, but they expertly handled a situation nothing could prepare anyone for, and organized our safe transportation into Wheeler.
The best thing about Patrick on this trip is how hard he worked to better himself in the past five weeks. It takes a big person to do that, and here at Bike & Build, pride is no small thing to overcome. Honestly, it is important to recognize, at first we riders were not having it with his teacher-tricks. We rolled our eyes, decidedly annoyed. We insisted we were too old, that doesn’t work on us. The sentiment turned into a running joke, though, and there’s no question of the respect he earned.

He told Matt, “I’m addicted to leading.” Unless you have done this trip, you cannot imagine all the physical and emotional obstacles we have  overcome to get here. But in addition to the rider hardships, Patrick focused on bettering himself as a leader, on reaching out to us in a way we would respond to. He made a point of biking with different riders, asking probing questions to better understand who we each were, encouraging us to explore and see the land we traversed.  He was our peer, mentor, teacher. He was bubbling after his leader review at the clear turn around he had made- what a success.

“It feels like 1,000 invisible hands from the universe are propping me upright,” Brittany finally remarked in response to the onslaught of social media concerns. “People keep telling us what big hearts we have and I feel every cubic inch- aching, amplified.” This trip- this trip we each worked months training for, fundraising money for, learning about affordable housing curriculum- had already taught me how amazing people can be in coming out to support you. But in tragedy their stength is so much bigger, stronger. Tyler said “you will now witness the best and worst of bike and build,” and he did not say the words lightly.

The first baptist church of Cordell met us in Sayre to mobilize our crew and get us and our bikes to our destination. What we had waiting for us was not just the people of the Wheeler Church of Christ, but also members of three sepperate churches. For two days we were given a home, showered in food and comfort. Everything we needed was donated. I mean everything-a church woman drove me to the local pharmacy and bought my yeast infection medication, which is just about as personal as it gets.

The days following felt like purgatory, like a sickness, like a fever. We were exhausted but too ill to sleep, or unable to stay awake. I walked in circles just to sit for a few minutes. We go in and out of recovery. The unimaginable has happened. Still, the Church parking lot felt like safety, and parts of me didn’t want to leave. How can I face the hollowness of Patrick’s absense?

As the numbness began to fade, we noticed encouraging messages exploding throughout Facebook and on Instagram. A whole nation of Bike & Builders know our struggle and want to support. The same people who donated to our cause reached out pleading for some way to help us through this hard time. It feels like we have fallen, but a enormous and tightly woven net of people has caught us and won’t let us hit the gravel below.

It is a strange sensation to wake up crying. I keep waiting to be okay, sitting there and thinking “okay now I am fine.”

Wheeler has rescued us and we all have different ways to cope. For instance Abby and Rachel embarked on a quest they dubbed their “spirit journey” where they visited every gas station in Wheeler for junk food.  Katie Judge planned “spa day.” She went to the one convenience store in town (Buck Dollar) and had lotions, nail polish, and those little foam things that go between your toes donated. I ate a bunch of gum.

I can’t express more how blessed I feel to have this strong team of people and these very remarkable leaders here with me for this.

I keep running through the scenes with Patrick in them that I had taken for granted- how quick he was to notice when I did something for the group, his friendly teasing of my clumsy mistakes, his determined optimism despite weather or riding conditions.

Our bikes are now stored in a trailer. The pedals have been removed and wrapped in plastic wrap. Our front wheels are labeled in blue painters tape. Our helmets and shoes are in trash bags, stored away until we are ready to return to them.

Driving the route we should have ridden, all 32 of us, really hurts. We can’t help but examine the shoulder, noting how wide it is, mentally bookmarking gas stations and other shelters from the sun. But also we are suddenly aware the magnitude of the miles we bike each day, the true geographical scope of our journey. 

We all knew this endeavor would be hard… we just couldn’t imagine how hard. But to label this trip as “bad,” to let tragedy overshadow all our growth, would be a disservice to Patrick’s name. The end of or trip will be challenging in ways that none of us can imagine, and each of us will have to address these next few weeks in different ways. The truth is that we will not all complete the same passage to recovery. Patrick has already taught us so much. His final lesson will be that as a team, no matter where we are or how we do it, we will overcome together.

Thank you to Bridget Anderson’s family for all the support and enthusiasm they have always shown, but especially for the past few days as our friend recovers.

Thank you Sam, Tyler, and Brittany. You have carved a team that is strong, caring, and courageous. You have been our rocks.

Thank you Bridgette. How can you be so collected and rational even in a hospital bed?

Thank you to the whole town of Wheeler, to the habitat team of Amarillo, and to other community members who have fed us, housed us, and kept us busy.

Thank you Monica, the greif counselor who has helped us all find clarity.

Thank you Claire, for flying out here to be our mama bear and give this big, continuous collective hug.

Thank you Bike & Builders across the world who have chalked in Patrick’s, Bridget’s, and our name. It is still hard for us to digest the enormity of your support, but evidently it is welcomed.

Thank you to all the family and friends of us who are on this trip. I know it’s hard to watch go through this.

Thank you Patrick. You continue to teach us to be good stewards of the world, and your impact will only grow from here.

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23 thoughts on “The Hardest Post I’ll Ever Write

  1. Just heartbreaking! I have worked with every NC2SD group since the first ones came through Chapel Hill, NC back in 2007. I have long since realized what a special group of young adults known as Bike and Build riders are so it is a terrible ragedy to lose one. I wish Bridget a speedy recovery. My wife and I go down to Nags Head, NC to watch the NC2SD group do their wheel dip each year. We have become Bike and Build “groupies” and this year a number of the riders referred to us as the “Official” grandparents of Bike and build. I can’t finish, I’m tearing up. May God bless you all. Keep on pedaling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hoyle,
      You and Janet are one of the first great things NC2SD sees on their trip. Keep caring like you do and tell Janet that those strawberry lemon cookies made my stomach happy for the whole state of Oklahoma when she sent them to me!

      Love,
      Brigette from NC2SD12

      Like

  2. Beautifully written. As an alum who never knew him, these word speak loudly of Patrick, and are an incredible way to honor him, and continue his mission and legacy. All my love.
    -Brian, SC2SC13

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that you all are going through. As the parent of one of your group’s riders, I have been feeling quite helpless, knowing how much you all must be hurting. Please know that our thoughts, prayers and support are with all of you brave, caring, selfless riders.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are a beautiful and eloquent writer. I know writing about pain and loss is harder than the century rides at the mercy of the elements but you have handled both with grace. I’m sorry for you and your teams loss. Your bike and build family both nuclear and extended will always be there. I wish we could do more than chalk right now but know that should you ever need it, Just ask.
    Avry D
    P2S’12

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on Ken Crane's Corner and commented:
    Such sad and devastating news…
    Although we did not know Patrick personally, our thoughts and prayers go out to Patrick’s family and loved ones, as we mourn the loss of one of our son Greg’s Bike & Build comrades.
    We also ask you to keep Bridget Anderson, his riding partner, in your prayers as well. Bridget sustained serious leg injuries and was airlifted to Oklahoma University Medical Center where she is in critical condition.
    Please, everyone, just stay off your phone while driving, and share the road…
    #SC2SC2015

    Like

  6. I have been following your blog since you all built in St. Charles, MO with the Habitat affiliate I work for. I can’t imagine your pain and what you are all going through–thank you for this in depth update of how you all are handling a loss. All of us here at Habitat St. Charles are thinking of your crew and praying for Bridgette.

    Thank you for the time you gave us and for doing what you do…you are changing lives!!

    Like

  7. We shared a space with the coastal drifters and a meal with you back in Stratham, New Hampshire. A devistating loss! That many of us have gone through these losses, at work, at home or on a ride does not in any way prepare us for it. When I read your post I felt it down to the soul level. Tears welled up uncontrollably and I was back with my sister when she died. Senseless, tragic fact. We make room in our hearts for those we need to carry with us. I’m sure you will carry Patrick to your goal; and beyond. Older, wiser, sadder we carry on with the legacy, the strength and character of those who can no longer be with us. God bless you all; we know you will carry on in your own ways. Our thoughts and prayers are with each of you.

    Like

  8. Corrine, thank you for sharing this beautiful post and a bit of Patrick’s awesome attitude and spirit with those of us who did not know him. I am so deeply and sincerely sorry for your loss and will continue to think of and pray for healing and strength for you, Bridget, the rest of the ME2SB team, and the whole B&B family. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Meghan (SUS12)

    Like

  9. Hi Corrine! This is Brittany’s Mom….I have read your post three times now and can’t imagine the strength it took to get these thoughts out and organized into the beautifully written words of August 3rd. Thank you for being the person that you are, always delving into matters in a careful and thoughtful way. This was my greatest fear, that someone would not make it, and unfortunately that was Patrick. You do honor him, in your way, by remembering his smile, his laugh, and how hard he tried to contribute to your group. You will always be connected to these people you ride with now, they will make you better and stronger–just as you touch their lives. Take good care of each other, you are family!

    Like

  10. Eloquent and vulnerable, a testament to Patrick’s character and essence as well as the resilience and perspective of ME2SB15. Wishing all of you the very best, and sending all my love.

    Ethan
    SC2SC13, DW15

    Like

  11. Beautiful, painful post. Thank you for sharing. We are all heart broken for each and every one of you. I love how strong your spirit remains in all this great sadness. I’m sure Patrick would be proud of his team-mates. We are praying for our niece Bridget’s full recovery. I know how important you all were to sweet Bridget.
    Love each and every one of you!

    Like

  12. P2S alum crying so hard, partially because of this tragedy, and partially because you so perfectly captured and wonder and beauty of Bike & Build. Thank you for writing such a touching and honoring post. Chalked for Patrick in Austin this past weekend and looking forward to supporting ME2SB as you guys continue to ride. Keep writing please!

    Like

  13. Reblogged this on Meghan'sMind and commented:
    Beautiful post from a ME2SB15 rider, Corinne, about what she and the rest of her team are going through right now. I did not know Patrick, but Corinne’s words make me feel like I did.

    Please pray for Patrick, Bridget, the entire ME2SB gang, and the B&B family.

    Like

  14. My own belief is that when something bad happens, something good must come out of it.

    Education must be increased about the dangers of texting while driving (TWD) as well as penalties for those who choose to risk lives. A good place to start is to make sure this driver receives the maximum penalty for her actions, despite the incredible remorse she must be feeling.
    Jail time for the driver is not about revenge , but should be well publicized and serve as a wake up call to others so they stop this dangerous practice. The driver should willingly accept this role as the posterchild against TWD.
    In doing so many lives can be spared and save someone else from going through what you are.

    Like

  15. We grew up in Wheeler, Tx. It’s a town filled with friends and family that are known for their hospitality and love. We live in Amarillo and were home for a wedding. When we heard of your tragedy we came to offer help. We prayed with Corinne from Michigan and Catherine from Vermont and left our cell phone number. Every time we drove by the church we were deeply concerned about you all. We continue to pray.

    Like

  16. Pingback: No Words | Life in the Bike Lane

  17. I just finished reading this out loud to my parents, between the tears they kept singing your praises, you have a true gift for writing and I want to thank you for sharing this heart left story at such a difficult time… I’m Keeping your team in my thoughts ❤Alanna (️P2C’11)

    Like

  18. Sonya, I just finished reading this out loud to my parents, between the tears they kept singing your praises, you have a true gift for writing and I want to thank you for sharing this heart left story at such a difficult time… I’m Keeping your team in my thoughts ❤Alanna (️P2C’11)

    Like

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