I woke yesterday with that blessed temporary moment of amnesia, before reality came crashing in and I realized yes, Dan Wheldon was no longer with us.
I had decided to head over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, partially because doing nothing was driving me crazy, and it was the only place that seemed a proper destination.
I first went under the track, through the tunnel, into IMS itself. I got out, looked around. It was silent, calm. Cars were in the parking lot, but everything seemed muted. The sky was incredibly clear, the air with a slight nip to it. The track stood as she always does in the autumn, resting, waiting. I always like to think she's reminiscing about the year that was. If so, it's possible she was in mourning like we were.
I made my way back out and over to Gate 1, where the impromptu tribute and memorial from fans had taken shape. Cars were arriving and departing regularly as I pulled into the parking lot at 16th & Georgetown. I took my flowers, including remembrances for friends who couldn't make it themselves, and walked over.
As I got closer to the memorial, I found myself sobbing. I looked over flags, shirts, bouquets, cards, even a half-gallon of milk, all left by loving fans. It was so unfair, so damned, unrelentingly sad. It broke my heart, and breaks it again now, even to think of it. There was the trophy left by the young schoolboy who claimed Dan as an inspiration. There was the giant Union Jack, the signed photos returned in honor of the man who signed them.
You stand there, and all at once you feel small, helpless, angry, and empty.
Dan had taken the Speedway and had become an advocate for it, a tireless champion on and off the track. His legacy will never tarnish at this place, will never become dimmed. I thought if his joy in May, of the photos with his young son on the bricks. I thought of how he came back after being written off by so many. I thought that if I could learn to be a man who gave effort and took joy in the same manner as Dan did, I'd be a better man for it.
I wept openly, uncontrollably as I left the gate, passing other fans doing the same. I needed to sit in my car for a quarter of an hour before I could call my wife and let her known I was on my way home, to her and the kids.
It might seem hokey, but one thought went through my head as I drove away, a line from Gladiator, from a friend saying farewell to a fallen warrior:
"I will see you again...but not yet...not yet".
No, not yet.