Route 99
Logo by Max Glascott - 1999

Last Updated: 10/01/01

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Officer James Nelson
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Please help his family.

James Nelson was 40 years old. He left behind a wife and two daughters, Caitlin (5) and Anne (11). The family has established a trust fund for the girls and if you want to do something concrete to help a family in need, please consider sending a check to help this family.

Send checks to:

Anne and Caitlin Trust Fund

1st Union Bank

Raritan Road

Clark, New Jersey 07066

In 1999 when I subtitled this transcontinental bike trip "Links Across America", I envisioned making a lot of new friends (links) from coast to coast, friends I would maintain contact with in the ensuing years.

That has, in fact, happened, and my life has been enriched because of it. Obviously not every person I met maintained that contact, but enough that I have concluded the subtitle was well-chosen.

In 1999 I didn't imagine that sad news would come from any of those "links".

Now, your help is needed.

Here's how I met Officer Nelson.

On August 3, 1999, near the conclusion of my trip, I left my aunt's home in New Jersey and rode toward Manhattan. I wanted to take the Staten Island Ferry because of the unparallelled view it affords of the skyline of lower Manhattan. But first I had to get onto Staten Island; no easy task on a bicycle. I chose the Goethals Bridge, an interstate bridge with the usual "No hitchhikers, pedestrians, bicycles..." sign.

Waiting for me on the other side were two officers of the New York Port Authority Police, Lieutenant Mark Winslow and Officer James Nelson. At first blunt and professionally hostile, they quickly turned my encounter with them into one of the brightest moments of the trip, which I have remembered frequently with delight.

On September 26, 200, I received an email from a young woman I have never met. It read as follows:

"Bob --
I'm the girlfriend of James Nelson's nephew. Last night, we received word that his body had been identified amongst those found in the ruins of the World Trade Center
Doing a search of his name today, I came upon your website. I just wanted to thank you for your kind words about James. I'm hoping that they will serve as a small bit of comfort to my boyfriend and his father, the teacher that James had mentioned to you.
I hope that this letter finds you and yours well.

--Heather Haebe"

This email hit me directly in the heart. Like all adults on September 11, soon after hearing the news I raced through my mental "Rolodex" of family and friends who might have been in NYC. The only names that surfaced were the two Port Authority policeman who had been so professional and so hospitable, no -- more than hospitable -- outright friendly -- to an out-of-town stranger. I checked them off as "safe" because of course they were, I thought, stationed well away from the danger.

The Port Authority lost more than 80 employees at WTC. You can find their names listed on their web site.

Here is the text of another email I received later that day from Dr. Anthony Iuzzolino, James's brother-in-law:

Thanks for all the wonderful things that you said about my brother-in- law James Nelson. His body was found on either Sunday or Monday on Waters Street. He was apparently in Jersey City, New Jersey when the first plane hit. He then went to the World Trade Center. He was in building one (the first one hit) when building two collapsed. He was told to get out of the building as soon as possible, however, he apparently continued to evacuate people. There was no word about him until two days ago when they found his body. The funeral is tomorrow, Sept 27th at St. Helen's church in Westfield, NJ and the mass is the next day.

One again thanks, he was happy about your positive comments.

He was a great husband, father, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, policeman and friend.
Anthony Iuzzolino, MD (his brother in law)

My acquintance with Officer Nelson was brief, but in that short time I saw the personification of professionalism and a warm human being. And I know he was a great dad; you can tell very quickly.

Just joining Route 99? Though the trip itself is over, you can relive the excitement, beauty, and emotion of this high school teacher's bike ride across America by using our Journal Archives Section.

Bob Graham, a social studies teacher at Downers Grove North High School, Downers Grove, Illinois bicycled solo across the continent between June 6 and August 7, 1999. As this website shows, he took his students and community with him every pedal stroke from the Golden Gate Bridge to Plymouth Rock, through their assignments leading up to the trip, and through his mobile computing, which brought them fresh journal entries every day of the trip. The journals themselves are a lesson in history, geography, sociology and the American spirit.

  • Every one of Mr. Graham's 1998-99 U.S. History students contributed a web page to the site on every county (110 of them) he cycled through (see Info Maps). (See Evolution of the Trip for a detailed explanation of the involvement of his students.)

    Here is a rough approximation of Mr. Graham's route across the continent:

    Trip Progress

    buttonPlease be sure to take a look at the Fundraising Page. This trip was done for charitable as well as educational reasons, and if you like what you read on these pages, well, know that contributions are still appreciated. (You can contribute right from the fundraising page.)

    Community High School District 99 - Downers Grove, IL

    Let me bring you up to date on 'Route 99'. My 1999-2000 U.S. History students did a follow-up to what my 1998-99 students did. Each was assigned one of the counties on the route, just like the year before, but the objective this time was to find information on the indigenous Indians/Native Americans who occupied that "county" before white "settlement" (from the Native viewpoint, both words can be seen as euphemisms). It proved to be a difficult task, as we discovered that many official county histories either make no mention of the Indians who were there or offer something like this: "The Native Americans had voluntarily left the area before the arrival of the first settlers to ____ County." It was a real learning experience for all of us.

    Because of frustrating problems in our school computer lab (constant crashing and burning), I indefinitely postponed the remainder of the project, and as of this fall I don't yet have enough confidence in our equipment to continue it.

    The 1999-2000 first semester student websites will appear on-line under the caption "Native Americans" in the index to your left.