Flawless blue skies are a beautiful thing, especially when accompanied by cool weather.
That’s only one thought that floated through my mind on Sunday as the engines fired up at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Conn. There was also the appreciation of how the thrum of the modified power plants beat at my chest, the sight of Bobby Santos t-shirts, fans displaying Lebanon Valley logos and the general feeling of bonhomie that only comes with the first race of the season.
We stood as one for the national anthem and raised our hats in salute as the field passed us by one last time before the green flag dropped. Sighs and groans of excitement and irritation whispered through the grandstands as cars snapped loose, only to be collected up and continued on their way. We swayed and stood up, pointed and clapped. Some might call it a well rehearsed show.
Actually, it is NASCAR fans coming together and thoroughly enjoying the one thing we love most: stock car racing. It was perhaps a more humble display of racing fans doing what we love than was seen on Saturday night in Richmond, but the sentiment is the same, diminished not one whit by the location.
I try to take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate my obsession with others as often as I can. But there was one time when I was denied this chance: Sept. 16, 2001. The weekend after America was attacked by al-Qaeda. As many remember, most major sporting events were canceled after the fateful attacks on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the loss of Flight 93. The race at New Hampshire was postponed until November.
After days of staring at endless news coverage on the TV, and turning away each time they showed the towers falling, I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to prove to myself and maybe just a little to the world that all had not changed. Yes, we suffered a horrific attack with great loss of life. However, I was not about to lie down and start looking for terrorists under every rock in my world. I needed a small shred of normalcy.
I couldn’t go to the track, so I ended up at the beach. Just like on 9/11, the sun shone in a brilliant blue sky. Some people escaping the constant harping of the media wandered the sand, the same as I. Others brought kites, their colorful ribbons fluttering in the autumn wind. Even at the moment of great fear and grief, we stood together and enjoyed this small freedom our lives as Americans afford us. This was our way of fighting against the horror — we would live on.
This Sunday night, a late night announcement was made: Osama bin Laden is dead. The mastermind of that horrendous attack was killed. After nearly a decade of seeking out the enemy of our nation, it was done.
What did America do in response? We celebrated. The youth of the nation streamed into the streets, singing, waving flags, clapping and welcoming others into the mass of joy; a spontaneous party of thanks and relief. They stood together, Americans one and all, giving a single voice to their emotion: loud, strong and full of conviction. Justice at last!
But, we’ve been looking forward to the official announcement of bin Laden’s capture or demise for nearly 10 years. While we waited, what did we do?
Thousands of U.S. service men and women gave their life in this War on Terror, taking a visible active role in the defiance of those who would think to take all we have away from us, and I thank them. In a silent, less noticeable manner the rest of America has fought, too, in a very simple way.
Each and every time we gathered in a public venue, whether it was at the Mall of America, visiting Disney World or, yes, going to the races, we proved to our enemies, we are not afraid. We love our country. We will continue to celebrate our lives as we always have. We shall stand together, in the stands, with our hands over our hearts and sing The Star Spangled Banner. The engines shall fire and the race will start. Our voices will rise in a cheer of joy!
Perhaps a chapter of this war has closed with the death of Osama bin Laden. However, the American people have won countless battles over the past decade, and will continue to do so each time we gather under sunny, blue skies and exercise the freedoms for which we have fought.
I will see you at the track.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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