In walk across America, man spreads word on dangers of drug overdose
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — On the second anniversary of his sister’s passing, Brett Bramble dipped his toes in the Atlantic and set out to walk across America.
Through 14 states, 32-year-old Bramble walked between 20 to 25 miles a day to spread the word about drug overdose — the very thing that took his sister Brittany from him too soon.
Brittany died of a heroin overdose on March 15, 2014, leaving behind three sons and a heartbroken family.
“That was absolutely devastating to me and our family and all of her friends. Everybody loved her. She was incredible,” said Bramble, who hails from a suburb of Atlanta.
On a sleepless night, the idea to walk across the country came to him, and when he realized he could do it for his sister, he knew he had to commit.
After 10 months of planning, Bramble started on the American Discovery Trail in Delaware.
“I was met by a lot of other people in the area who had lost someone recently. There was a big group of people to show support before I even started,” said Bramble.
And the outpouring of kindness and encouragement hasn’t stopped since.
“I look crazy walking on the side of the road — I’m pushing a baby stroller almost — and I realize that. I’m just kind of expecting people to honk and ignore me, but no. People stop. From all walks of life, they stop,” said Bramble.
“They ask how I’m doing and if I’m OK. Even when I say I’m OK, they say, ‘No, you’re not. You need stuff.’ And they’ll give me water, hugs, cookies, money, whatever they’ve got.”
It’s not uncommon for complete strangers to invite him into their homes for a good night’s sleep and a shower.
EDUCATING AMERICA’S YOUTH
Bramble has affectionately dubbed the stroller, filled with camping supplies, clothing and food, “Lieutenant Dan.”
“Walking Across America for Overdose Awareness” is written in bright colors, alongside photos of Brittany and his family.
Lieutenant Dan helps start the conversation about his sister’s story.
“I walk into every town, and almost every person I talk to has to give me a hug when they talk to me because they’ve lost somebody or know somebody about to go,” said Bramble, who advocates for medical amnesty laws, also known as Good Samaritan Laws.
“It’s supposed to encourage people to call 911 when they witness an overdose because that’s what saves lives,” he explained.
In Dayton, Nev., Bramble had the opportunity to speak to a group of fifth and sixth graders and another of third and fourth graders at Sutro Elementary School.
“The questions they asked were incredible — not just about the walk, but about drugs. They wanted to know. They’ve seen it, unfortunately,” recalled Bramble.
Later that day Bramble received an email from a teacher with 40 notes from the kids he spoke to.
“One of the girls who came up to me after I finished talking, she got her mom to drive out to Carson City to find me to say hi and even get my autograph,” said Bramble. “I knew my sister would have loved that.”
Bramble said he owes Nevada a great debt of gratitude — and not just for the opportunity to shift his audience from adults to children.
“When I was in the desert in Nevada, I was really able to dig deep enough in thought — it is the loneliest highway in America, after all — that’s where this whole thing came full circle,” he said. “I didn’t realize exactly what I was doing, but there was just a moment of absolute peace where I was OK with just having my sister’s love for the rest of my life.
“I don’t know if I had to walk across the country to get that or not, but for me that’s what worked.”
TAHOE TO THE BAY AREA
Bramble arrived at Lake Tahoe on Saturday, Oct. 22, and can now be found pushing Lieutenant Dan westbound on Highway 50 en route to San Francisco where he is set to arrive on Nov. 12 — eight months, 3,000 miles, five pairs of shoes and three sets of tires later.
After a dip in the Pacific Ocean and a celebration of the journey with family, Bramble plans to continue spreading the word on drug overdose.
“47,055 people died of drug overdose in 2014. That’s 129 per day in America,” said Bramble, citing the Center for Disease Control’s latest numbers.
That’s an increase of 6.5 percent over the year prior.
“We have a problem. Nobody knows the answer, I wish I did, but I know talking about it is going to help, without a doubt,” said Bramble.
When he returns to Georgia, Bramble said his next step is to get to work on a book about his trek and eventually hit the road again for a speaking tour.
“A random act of kindness happens to me every day, and I can’t wait to share that and keep that going,” he said. “I feel good. I feel like I can do anything.”