Motorcyclists from across New England gearing up for Ride for the Fallen 7

Sitting motionless and fairly numb on that Saturday afternoon I’ll never forget, I stared alternately at my TV and computer screens and watched my worst nightmare come true.

How many times, I couldn’t help wondering as my mind wandered between the unimaginable and reality, had I been doing the same exact thing, in the same exact way, as these experienced motorcyclists were doing when, in a split-second, 10 of them lay strewn among wrecked motorcycles and vehicle parts across a section of Route 2.

When the proverbial dust finally subsided – it may never fully settle – seven of these men and women, by all accounts wonderful, help-thy-neighbor people, many of them U.S. Marines or family members of Marine veterans, would die of their injuries, with three others left to battle painful injuries both physical and emotional.

But human resilience – even in the face of a tragedy of this magnitude – seems to always shine through the darkness and somehow find ways to counter the shock, then sadness and the sense of despair that typically follows such a horrible turn of events.

This coming Saturday, two weeks and a day after the still hard-to-comprehend crash claimed the lives of seven people, all either members of or connected to the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, the motorcyling community will come together for a tribute ride that, if early interest is any indicator, may very well be remembered as the largest group ride ever.

See information box for additional details.

I mention my own personal longtime love of riding on two wheels only because I know first-hand the thoughts that lurk in the back of every biker’s mind: Is the driver of that oncoming vehicle going to see me? Might he or she suddenly drift into my lane or make a last-second turn in front of me?

No matter how experienced and skilled a motorcyclist is – and I’m willing to bet anything these riders were both – there are times when even that extra alertness and heightened vigilence simply aren’t enough to avoid the unthinkable.

What happened and how it happened has been widely reported, as has the frustrating, if downright maddening, details of the truck driver’s motor vehicle history. There’s no need to rehash it here; I’d rather focus on how so many people, even beyond the greater motorcyling community, almost immediately extended a warm hand of compassion and asked, “what can I do to help?”

The Jarheads – the nickname for U.S. Marines – lost five “patches” – members – and two supporters, those who are close to the club. Members include active duty or honorably discharged Marines and Fleet Marine Force Corpsmen whose mission is to “ride and to serve veterans and veteran families … .”

Serving veterans and their families is precisely what the Jarheads were doing when tragedy struck. They were cruising up Route 2 headed for Gorham, where they would take part in a charity event at the town’s American Legion post.

Steve Allison, a Manchester resident and one of the Ride for the Fallen 7 organizers, was featured the other day in a news segment on a Maine TV station.

“Nothing like this” has ever happened “anywhere in this country before,” Allison said. Veterans and motorcyclists, he added, are not just a community, they’re members of one huge family.

Another organizer, Derry resident Brian DeSimone, said interest in the tribute ride and services “has been taking off like crazy.”

Allison, DeSimone said, “just thought we should do something” for the families of the fallen. “It started as a Facebook response thing … it just grew and grew.”

Flyers were printed up and posted. State Police and members of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts Patriot Guard Riders offered to provide escorts. Organizers brought a church deacon on board for the services. A bugler will play taps at the service. If it rains Saturday, it doesn’t matter. Everything will go on as scheduled. Nobody would have it any other way.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears Sundays in The Telegraph. He may be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or@Telegraph_DeanS.