At Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, David Reutimann’s No. 00 Aaron’s Toyota carries a special paint scheme honoring the Aaron’s Freedom Ride 2011. About 25 Atlanta firefighters plan to ride bicycles 1,035 miles from Atlanta to New York City and through 13 cities along the way to commemorate the lives of the firefighters and first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.
But it’s more than just a paint scheme to Jack Weiss.
Weiss has been Reutimann’s motorhome driver since 2004, but on 9/11 he was driving a tractor trailer at a construction site in Yonkers, N.Y. about 10 miles from Ground Zero across the Hudson River. The 27-year veteran of the Yonkers Police Department watched as the buildings fell and spent countless hours in the months after the tragedy restoring the area.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THE MORNING OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: “I was working on a parking lot construction site in Yonkers (N.Y.) along the Hudson River that morning. You could see down into the city from where we were working – it was about 10 miles away, but we could see the buildings from where we were. It was a very clear day and you could see clearly where the first building got hit and then you could see the second building get hit and the smoke. I didn’t know what was going on down there – my boss called me and said, ‘Jack – I just heard something on the radio! Look down the river.’ And all of the sudden I looked down and (everything) was going like crazy man.”
DID THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON? “They knew something was going on, but no one could believe it. They said that a plane hit the first building – that could be an accident. But, a half-hour later when the second plane hit – that’s when we all knew that it wasn’t an accident. Then I got home from work that night and I looked it up on the news and followed it on the news and that was all we could really do. I didn’t go down there at first. I wanted to go down there and they were looking for volunteers, but it wasn’t possible due to my regular work schedule driving the tractor trailer at the time. I guess it was about six weeks later when my boss came to me and said, ‘Hey Jack, would you mind hauling some debris? One of the guys that got the contract is looking for trucks and drivers and I want to send you down there.’ I worked there for about two months before my boss pulled us out.”
HOW DID YOU END UP WORKING FOR DAVID? “As time went on I was still driving a tractor trailer for quite a while, then in 2004 David (Reutimann) called me and said that he was going to be driving some NASCAR races. I asked him a long time before if I could drive his motorhome for him if he ever got into NASCAR – so he was taking me up on my offer. So I said, yeah, I’d love to. I went in and quit my job driving the tractor trailer that week – I took the keys in and gave them to my boss and told him I’m not coming back any more. Then I headed down to David’s and started driving his motorhome.”
HOW DID YOU ORIGINALLY MEET THE REUTIMANNS? “I met the Reutimann’s when Buzzie was racing in New York in 1968 at Middletown, N.Y. at Orange Country Fair Speedway. I met Buzzie at the race track and asked him if I could help him out on Saturday nights – just as an extra set of hands working on things. At the time it was just Buzzie and his wife and he didn’t have any help – David wasn’t even born until two years later. David was born in 1970. It’s a nice story. I always treasured the whole Reutimann family. The best thing I ever did was to ask Buzzie if I could help him out every once in a while. And now here it is 40 something years later and I’m still helping both the father and son. The only difference is David gives me a paycheck every month!”