Daily Archives: 2013/02/18

It was a tough year…

images2001 is a year seared into the minds of Americans for obvious reasons. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 will hold a definitive place in our collective national psyche forever. But in February of that same year, America lost something else. Ralph Dale Earnhardt, Sr. (April 29, 1951 – February 18, 2001) was the epitome of a small town boy with dreams so bright and alive with the American spirit, it was obvious to anyone who knew him that one day those dreams would be realized. “Dale Earnhardt” would eventually conquer the adversity of less than humble beginnings to achieve all he hoped for and more. To his fans he represented the unique opportunity of this country if one is willing to commit to the journey. More than a decade after a high speed crash at his beloved Daytona International Speedway took his life, Earnhardt is still revered for the “rags to riches” story of a poor boy from Kannapolis, North Carolina who became a seven time champion of auto racing.

2001 was indeed a year that touched me profoundly, but as I look back on it there were many reasons why. Our nation’s soul was exposed to the world and has been in question ever since. Dale’s death brought his life story and NASCAR to just about every American television. Race fan or not, in many ways it opened the book on who we are. 9/11 would eventually beg the question, do we have what it takes to understand and preserve what we found in that book.

72495959_crop_650x440As an unwavering Earnhardt fan from way back, February 18th is not only a sad time when taken in the context above, but also a hopeful time for me, as I continue to believe in the “American Dream” represented by Dale’s life and legacy. That dream is not necessarily something tangible we may put our hands on, but rather it’s a feeling deep inside we know belongs to each and every one of us. That day I lost my hero, and the horrible day that followed just seven months later when we lost so many heroes, remind me to hold fast to that dream, and never take for granted all of the opportunities and blessings that come with it.

This is the day I remember (all of 2001), and how we mustn’t ignore the lessons of that year, from the beginning to the end…

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