Thursday, September 1, 2011

Remembering September 2001

As we get close to the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the United States, there is a lot to say and think about; what is remembered, what is forgotten, what has changed, the sorrow, the anger, the pride. Since this is a space dedicated to F1 and motorsports, I will only share some of my thoughts as each of us has their own personal experience with the event American or not. There were many in F1 that took it on the chin. A number of sponsors had offices at the World Trade Center, Michael Schumacher seriously contemplated retirement and  drivers considered not racing. However, there were numerous acts of solidarity with the United States from F1.  

I recall watching the two grand prix that were held that month, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and the United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I fortunately did not lose any loved ones on that day, but it was a period of time that can only be described as a melancholic fog; a collection of incoherent mental images that left me feeling like I received a couple of knockout punches. Another kick in the teeth was the fact that two of the hijacked aircraft came out of out my hometown of Boston, MA.

As far as the racing went, there were three things I can distinctly recall about that race weekend. One, the Italian GP was already under a pall as the 2000 race was marred by the death of fire marshal, Paolo Ghislimberti. Two, I was preparing to get news that then CART racer and ex-F1 driver Alex Zanardi was going to die after losing both his legs in a horrible crash in Germany. Three, remembering then Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya winning the race and thinking what a shitty race and time to get your first F1 win. Thankfully, Zanardi survived his accident and to this day proves to be an enduring testament to the power of human will. As it relates to the USGP, I honestly could not tell you who one the race without having to look it up. I was a bit more caught up in the acts of solidarity.  An interesting bit of numerology is that 10 years after those tragic events, this year's Italian Grand Prix will be on September 11th. I wonder if there will be remembrances given the very classy way Ferrari acted.

Below you will find a collection of some quotes and news story excerpts in the F1 community in regards to those events:
"In mid August, having won our third consecutive Constructors' Championship, we decided to meet the international Formula One press. At the time, we could not have predicted the events of yesterday. I was at the Frankfurt Motor Show and was deeply affected. Personally, I feel very close to the USA, as I was at university in New York. I admire the democracy in the USA." Luca di Montezemolo, Atlas F1 News Service, 9/12/01

"The Jaguar Racing team may withdraw from the Italian Grand Prix this weekend following the terrorist attacks in the United States on Tuesday. 'We are reviewing the situation all the time,' a Jaguar spokesperson was quoted as saying by The Times. 'We want to do what is best.' ...Two of Jaguar's main sponsors, HSBC and AT&T, had offices within the World Trade Center, which collapsed after two planes crashed into both towers." Jaguar Considering Pulling Out of Italian GP, Atlas F1 New Service, 9/13/01

"It's pretty difficult to find the right expression for what has happened there and what we feel. I think in all of us it is pretty much the same... the sympathy is naturally all with them and the support as much as we can support. It's going to be a tough time." Michael Schumacher, 9/13/01

"Grand Prix racing is to observe a European-wide three-minute silence on Friday to honor the thousands who died in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington earlier this week. The sport is joining in the European Union's designated official period of silence. The morning's free practice session is to start early and end early to allow the silence to be observed at midday local time. F1 team bosses have also decided that no engines will be run for 10 minutes."  F1 to pay its respects in Monza,, 9/13/01

"It (USGP for 9/30) should go ahead, I believe it. What happened there is crazy, absolutely mental but I think the worse thing they could do is to try to stop the country...if they do that it would be more joy to whoever did it. It is a tough thing but they should try to keep going and it could help take the mind off (things) for a lot of people." Juan Pablo Montoya, Atlas F1 News Service, 9/13/01

"The Ferrari team have announced their decision to run their cars without any logos from their sponsors and suppliers as a mark of respect to the American people following Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington." Ferrari Strip Cars of Advertising for Monza, Atlas F1 News Service, 9/13/01

"Daimler-Chrysler, parent of team partners Mercedes, have started a $10 million fund and McLaren said they would donate heavily. 'There is extensive communication through to all the members of the organization throughout the world and many of them are already pledging either personal income or funding,' said McLaren team boss Ron Dennis at the Italian Grand Prix. 'That will be supplemented by the TAG McLaren Group. There are going to be a lot of kids without parents...The aftermath of this is going to be very much felt by young people.' " Alan Baldwin, F1 Mourns Terror Victims, Atlas F1 News Service, 9/14/01

"I think it is the whole world's tragedy. We have to look at what is happening and the feeling in the paddock is not the best. No one is happy. Normally F1 is a celebration but there's nothing to celebrate here when we see what is happening around the world. There is stress, everybody is concerned and the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is to turn the television on to see if there is any news. We still have to carry on, we have to take care of what is happening but we can't stop otherwise the people that attacked the USA will have won their battle and we cannot let this happen." Jarno Trulli, 9/14/01

"A variety of tributes were paid to those killed in the terrorism attacks on New York and Washington during Friday's opening free practice session for the United States Grand Prix. Jaguar Racing, who have large backing from America, led the marks of respect as they donned black nose cones similar to the one used by Ferrari at Monza two weeks ago. Ferrari reverted back to their all-red car at Indianapolis, but sported an American flag on the side of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello's cars. Jordan also ran with the Stars and Stripes emblem on their EJ11, while driver Jarno Trulli's helmet included a statement which read: "God Bless America"." Teams Pay Tributes to US Causalities in Free Practice, Atlas F1 News Service, 9/28/01

Sport is a curious thing. In a lot of cases it can divide. The opposition is the enemy to be hated and reviled. Yet, it can bring people together like nothing else. You have the shared knowledge that where ever your allegiances lay, there is the common denominator of having the passion and interest of that sport. We experience or witness this in our everyday lives whether we are talking about different countries, races or religions/spirituality. Then there are moments when the world "stops" and everyone takes in the idea that there are common denominators to be celebrated and there are things that are bigger than squabbling over the differences.

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