Thursday, October 16, 2014

3 Years...

Today is a sad day as it was three years ago today Dan Wheldon's life came to a premature end in a race in Las Vegas. I was there that day and the images are something I wish I could forget. I think back to that day a lot; not by choice but when one sees something like that it's hard to forget. It's somewhat harder this year, for me, because of the timing of a presentation.

First, I didn't know Dan, I never talked to Dan, and the only communication I ever had with him was through my flags at the SKUSA Supernats in 2008, 2009, and 2010 so I can't imagine how hard it is for people that actually knew him. That being said, anniversaries like this are hard for me regardless how well I knew a person because of my associative memory system and last night I presented at the Special School District which was my last presentation and last thing I did in Saint Louis before Rob, my friend from Vancouver, and I hit the road to Las Vegas.

I've presented at SSD each year since I began and each year since 2011, when the presentation is over and I head out to my car, I can recall the thrilling excitement of the drive at hand. It was 9PM and Rob and I had to be in Vegas within 34 hours which meant no hotel a straight drive. I took the first leg which was to Kansas City then I, knowing Kansas all too well, went to sleep and let him tackle the vast expanse of blandness that is I-70 through Kansas. He still reminds me of this to this day that he certainly got the short end of the stick on that one. It was a thrilling experience I think a lot of twentysomethings, or those in college, have an experience like that and as we left on that night in 2011 it was as if I were doing something completely normal and I felt alive.

Along the way I even filmed a video blog



The reason we had to rush to Vegas was that I was working a USAC .25 race on a track outside the big oval at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This also brought back memories back then because it was October of 2003 that I was instructing at the racing school of the Derek Daly Academy. So this whole trip was a voyage, a pilgrimage of sorts and again, I felt so very, very alive. Then Sunday, the 16th happened.

It's one thing to witness something from afar, or on television and have the, "oh my, that's not good" feeling but to be there from start to end from the moment I knew there was going to be trouble (I knew about 2 seconds before the first contact was made) from the time the last car crashing comes to a stop, from the moment the red flags is displayed, from when the medical chopper took off is a different experience. It's one that has stayed with me and for about a full year it was something I had a difficult time talking about. Time has somewhat lessened that outside of the timing of this year.

Last night I was up until 4AM trying to go to sleep but I couldn't. I relived each mile of the roadtrip, each conversation I had with the USAC group, the great racing at the .25 track (see photo on right. Three wide finishes aren't common and that was spectacular!) and the lead up to that fateful race day.

Again, as I began, I'm writing from my perspective and I know family and close friends have to have today be much worse than how I feel. I don't want to write a blog that is a, "woe is me" because I was just a witness to the event. That being said I do want to have a point to this blog and it is to explain the way the Asperger mind can work. Remember, if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person so this may or may not be true for the next person, but the brain, well, my brain being so visual can replay events over and over... and over again. That being said it is hard to move on from things because memories are always fresh as if it just happened. Before I was diagnosed I can recall instances where people would tell me, "Aaron, it's been so long, just get over it!" While time may have actually been passed for myself it was as if it had just happened. And that's where I am today.

While struggling with this last night I went to YouTube to not relive the events of October 16th, but to relive the final lap of the Indy 500 of 2011 which Wheldon won in the most unexpected of ways. I think in 100 years this finish will still be talked about and that's the way I'm trying to battle the memories of the road trip, sleeping through Kansas, stopping on the side of the road (which I am deathly afraid of) to film a video blog, from the time spent with my USAC friends, to flagging the great .25 race, from our hotel room, and the drive to the Speedway Sunday morning. I want to forget it all. I'm not alone on that, I know. Today is a bitter day for anyone in the open wheel community and is a day many would like to forget. For all those that were there, each of us have a story. This is mine as a witness from afar.

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