One year ago today, all hell was breaking loose -- literally. September 11, 2001 ... 9-11 ... forever ingrained in our individual memory and in our collective history. Halfway across the country from those unspeakable atrocities -- in Topeka, ...
One year ago today, all hell was breaking loose -- literally. September 11, 2001 ... 9-11 ... forever ingrained in our individual memory and in our collective history.
Halfway across the country from those unspeakable atrocities -- in Topeka, Kansas, the Heartland of America -- the Sports Car Club of America had just begun their annual Solo II Nationals. A record number of entries, more than 1000, were scheduled to compete during the week in the world's largest motorsports competition. Little did they know how their world of competition would be changed, the least of the changes they would go through related to that day.
Immediately after learning of what had happened, officials quickly shut down the competition. You see, the nationals are held on the tarmac of Forbes Field, still considered to be an active military installation despite the absence of what we might consider to be an active military presence. The tarmac was secured and all nonmilitary vehicles were removed from it and relocated to the extreme western edge of Forbes Field, adjacent to where the new SCCA headquarters building would soon stand.
Later in the week, it was agreed that the nationals would be shortened so that everyone who was still there for the first two days - and who could get there for the last two days - would be given a chance to compete. Instead of their customary three runs on each of the two courses, competition was shortened to three runs on only one of the courses. For everyone involved -- competitors, SCCA officials and military personnel -- it was a most welcome compromise, given the situation.
I am not a competitor but my wife and I were at the entrance to the nationals' site last Sunday night, doing our gate guard bit - having people sign waivers and checking for wrist bands as they entered. SCCA held their ProSolo series finale on the same course over the weekend so there was a lot of traffic, in addition to the early arrivals.
Those who were entering and exiting the tarmac Sunday night were some of the same people we saw last year on the Sunday before competition began. I've seen some of them for the past few years as I enjoy being the Sunday-night-before-competition-starts gate guard.
I drove through the facility last night after work, just to see what it looked like, given the current status of the national risk of terrorism. This year, the entrance gate is again open and free-wheeling. There is no military presence on the tarmac.
Lots of flags - especially American flags. Then there were various state flags, British flags (for those fans of Lucas Electronics, I'm sure), flags from some of the many different regions participating in the event. Everything looks like it did from 1995 (when the event moved to Topeka) through 2000. At least for SCCA, things look like they have returned to normal.
This year, SCCA is celebrating their 30th annual solo II nationals. The SCCA plans "to return to the year 1972, where it all began, with a retro look and sound. Dust off your leisure suit, pack a paisley shirt, put on a Frampton album and be a part of the competition and camaraderie in Topeka!"
Competition is always good but I think the camaraderie will mean so much to this year's nearly 1200 competitors. Being here this week - today - is a necessary part of the healing process for many people. It's a way for us to remember what we usually take for granted in our country and our lives. Being where 9-11 began from their perspective ... where we were when we first heard about it and saw the video ... being with your friends because SCCA is more like a family than your own sometimes. That's what it important this week, not the competition.
This week, we'll remember 2001 much more than we will 1972, in spite of the celebration. This year we will remember last year, with our friends, many of whom were with us then as well.
Life goes on but we don't forget.