Early September 2001 for SCCA was the start of Championship weeks.
Tuesday, Sept. 11 was the start of the Tire Rack SCCA Solo Nationals at Forbes Field, in Topeka. On Saturday, Sept. 15, the Spec Racer Ford Pro Series would hold the penultimate round of its Championship in Daytona Beach. Monday, Sept. 17 would mark the start of the 2001 Runoffs at Mid-Ohio.
Like my parents with the assassination of JFK, I will always remember where I was September 11, 2001, when I saw the world change before my eyes. And as I ate my breakfast, my roommates and I stared at the visuals on television in disbelief. While driving to work, I learned that the Pentagon had been hit. Shortly after arriving to SCCA’s old offices in Centennial, Colo., we learned that another plane has crashed in Pennsylvania and the twin towers of the World Trade Center have collapsed.
Word quickly came in that Forbes Field was suddenly filled with activity of a different kind—that of the 190th Air Refueling Wing and the United States Air Force. My first official duty on the day was writing an announcement suspending activity at the Solo Nationals until Thursday, Sept. 13 due to the National Security risk. With air travel in the United States grounded, we had no choice but to cancel the Spec Racer Ford Pro event at Daytona.
My personal travel schedule had me going straight from Daytona to Ohio for the Runoffs, so I made the decision to pack my bags and start driving; first to Topeka, where I hooked up with a competitor going from Nationals to the Runoffs, and then on to Ohio.
The Runoffs started on time, and like Solo Nationals, held a sense of growing National pride. American flags appeared on most of the race cars. Each day started with God Bless America. Everyone seemed to be a little more patient and understanding. Everyone seemed to be a little more united. SCCA is a club that exists to serve as a competitive, social and entertainment outlet for its members. However, September 2001 reaffirmed what is arguably the most important reason that it exists for the majority of its members. SCCA is about friends and family. There was no more therapeutic way to cope with the events and loss of Sept. 11 than to share the time with our SCCA family.
We lost two members of our family that day. Joseph DeLuca and Linda Gronlund were among the heroes lost on United 93, which crashed into the woods in Pennsylvania before it could reach whatever target the terrorists had planned. In honor of Joe and Linda, the American flag was waved with the checkered flag at the conclusion of each Runoffs race in 2001, a tribute that has continued since.
We’re now five years removed from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Life goes on and as time passes, we tend to forget some of the details. We see movies, television shows and news programs that remind us of what, primarily, transpired in New York City. But for those of us who were in Topeka and Lexington while our National freedom was being threatened, we will remember spending the time at the races, with our family.