Program Served: AmeriCorps 2005-2007, Biloxi, MS and Jackson, MS, St. Louis Emergency Response Team
Hometown: Shenandoah, IA
Alma Mater: Wabash College
Currently: Denver, CO; Emergency Management Specialist, Department of the Interior US Bureau of Reclamation
AJ Lyman signed up to join the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team in the spring of 2005. The very day he had moved to St. Louis was the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall. 48 hours later, he was in Mississippi taking his first steps in a new world of emergency response.
Lyman had just graduated from Wabash College with a degree in Religion and plans to eventually teach religion after his one year term of service with AmeriCorps. “My grandfather was very service-oriented, and he raised me with a spirit of service,” said Lyman. That spirit came out immediately upon his arrival at the worksites.
Having grown up in rural Iowa, Lyman had seen firsthand the destruction caused by tornadoes and floods. “I had a general sense of what hurricanes did, but had never seen the impact first hand,” he said. “I’ll never forget driving into Biloxi and Pass Christian, and seeing complete homes picked up and moved into streets. The scale of the impacts was almost overwhelming, but there was work to be done.”
Lyman and his team worked on a wide assortment of tasks, including sorting unsolicited donations, managing a point of distribution, mucking houses, managing volunteers, and helping to manage a temporary village for impacted residents.
“There was so much to do and so many talented people on my team that took on roles they never imagined they would be doing with little to no training,” he said. I knew nothing about what I was getting myself into, but I had other motivated people around me who showed me time and time again that when great things are expected, great results were entirely possible.”
He went on to establish great, lasting relationships with many of the people he worked with, saying they were the most amazing part of his time serving. Lyman met his wife during a term of service, and made a best friend that went on to be his Best Man and the godfather to his daughter.
“That is how deep our connection is, because of the service we did side by side with ERT. Our team was very lucky to be surrounded by great people who saw the need and filled the need,” said Lyman. “I loved having had a chance to work with such a great bunch of people, all united behind the spirit of service that we embodied.”
Within a few weeks of his time in Mississippi, Lyman knew he would be doing another year with Emergency Response Team, and that he had found a calling. He currently works as an Emergency Management Specialist for the Department of the Interior US Bureau of Reclamation.
“I got to do great service for my country, and I found the rest of myself,” he said. “There’s a big difference between having a job and having a calling. There’s a feeling of purpose, and I feel purposeful in my work.’