Brain Injury Awareness Bike Ride Turns to Mission of Compassion
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct. 16, 2001 It started as a way to raise awareness, it continued as a mission to let those in New York and at the Pentagon know that America cares for them.
Lee Anne Barry set off on a bicycle Aug. 25 to ride across the United States. Barry, a 37-year-old preschool teacher from Charlotte, N.C., left Morro Bay, Calif. Barry, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was five, saw her ride as a challenge and a way to publicize this silent affliction. More than 1.5 million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries each year. Many are unaware they have been hurt.
Her mission changed when she and her husband, Ben, reached Denver Sept. 11. "We were in Denver staying at a friend's house," she said. "We were getting ready to start when my friend's roommate called and said, 'Turn on the TV.'
"We turned it on just as the second plane flew into the World Trade Center." Like the rest of America, Barry watched the coverage.
"Lee Anne didn't want to go forward, she was so devastated," Ben said.
"My spirit was broken," she said. "All I could think of was all those people."
But she did continue, with a twist. "We got cards together, one for the families in New York and another for those in the Pentagon and we've been having people sign them as we've gone across the country," she said. She said she got a special card from the people of Oklahoma City. "They know what New York and Washington are going through."
Crossing the country by bike means she stays off the main roads. "The people of these little towns we stopped at feel terrible and want to do something," Ben said.
Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, accepted the card from Barry Oct. 13 at the Brain Injury Association headquarters here.
"People do want to do something," Quigley said. "This gives them a very real connection to the people here and in New York."
Barry is continuing from Virginia to present another card to rescue workers in New York. Then she will continue on, finishing her bike ride Oct. 29 in Augusta, Maine.
"I had a brain injury when I was five. I was hit by a car," she said. "I spent a month in a coma and went through all the rehab. God has worked miracles in my life. It's amazing I'm still alive. That's one of the things I hope this bike ride does -- give those in recovery hope that life can go on."