Jason Michael Weese loves his motorcycle. Parked behind the field services tent at Schwan’s USA CUP, his blue Harley Davidson shines in the sun as Jason goes about his business as a runner and field manager.
Jason’s job is to run water and other essentials out to referees and officials throughout the tournament.
While Jason's car may not have survived the bridge collapse, the USA CUP volunteer thankfully did.
The job is hot, repetitive, and one that isn’t always viewed with enthusiasm by staff members or volunteers.
But despite the heat and the workload, Weese couldn’t be happier. Because after surviving the horrors of the 2007 I-35W bridge collapse, he’s just happy to be alive.
Rain was in the forecast on August 1, 2007, and while rain is often the enemy of motorcycle riders, the rainy forecast that day may have saved Weese’s life.
“I was going to take [the bike], but it was supposed to rain that day, so I decided not to,” he said.
Other than the fact that he was driving a car instead of his motorcycle, it was typical day for Jason Weese.
“It was just an ordinary day on the way home from work,” he said, “stuck in rush hour, road construction traffic.”
However, this ordinary day was about to take a turn for the worst.
“I’d just gotten off the phone, finished making a couple phone calls in traffic,” he recalls, “and the next thing that I know I’m looking in the rear-view mirror and the car behind me falls straight down.”
The central span of the nearly 2,000-foot bridge had given way, as eight lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic suddenly plunged over 100 feet into the river below.
“I actually had a full-size pickup land on top of me, the rear wheels were right at the base of my windshield,” he said. “They wound up having to cut me out of my car. Evidently I was conscious, but I don’t remember any of this.”
In fact, Weese didn’t wake up for three days, when the full extent of his injuries became clear, a laundry list of abrasions that would keep the father of three sidelined for a full 36 days.
“I wound up with some pretty substantial facial injuries. Both cheeks, both eye sockets, nose, collapsed lung, broke two vertebrae in my back,” he said. “And then the weird part was that I broke one single bone in my foot.”
But even after the doctors had done their best to restore Weese’s battered body, his journey back to health was just beginning.
“Rehab was intense,” he said. “With the broken back and the muscle spasms, they weren’t really sure that I was going to be able to walk again, let alone how much strength that I was going to actually have in my legs.”
Throughout the lengthy rehabilitation process, Weese was less concerned with his personal recovery, and more focused on the impact that his injuries would have on his family.
“You pretty much have to learn to walk again. I was so intent on getting back to my family, that I actually was pushing myself to get further along.”
And while he continued to recover physically, the emotional toll of the collapse continued to weigh on Weese’s mind.
“You’re in a lot of pain obviously, but the medications don’t really help emotionally,” he said. “For a period of about six months, I was trying to get back those three days when I was unconscious, to figure out what actually happened.”
Now six years removed from the collapse, Weese is happy and healthy once again, as his involvement in USA CUP continues to grow.
The tournament has even become a family affair; his son, 10 year old Brent, is playing in the tournament this year.
Weese is back on his motorcycle as well, fulfilling both of the goals that he set for himself in the hospital bed, all those years ago.
But Jason Michael Weese loves his motorcycle, and despite injuries that the collapse inflicted, Weese is back on the bike, and now after discovering a passion to volunteer at Schwan’s USA CUP, he’s back on the field as well.
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Tag(s): July 19, 2013