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18 Years Ago

May 1, 2012

We had a dish; not one of those small satellite dishes that everyone has these days but a 10-foot big honker that got C and KU bands. The fun was to get up first thing on a Sunday race morning and go looking for the world feed, which at that time could have been anywhere – but was usually in one of several places on the big grid.

It was Imola; it was May 1st and I slept as Ron searched the globe for the world feed of the Formula One race. This had already been a bloody weekend with Rubens Barrichello’s near-death experience on Friday ad the still lamentable demise of Roland Ratzenberger the next day.

He found it; I opened one eye to watch the start, realizing the VCR was churning and I could see it all again. There were no commentators on the raw feed, just sound and graphics so that national “talking heads” could enthrall viewers with the experiences of each driver they wanted to cheer for, the home guys in most instances (but not here in the USA as Michael Andretti, the most recent US-born F1 driver was back in the USA).

Suddenly Ron was screaming and the bed was rolling. Not an earthquake but THE accident, the one that changed F1 forever. Ayrton Senna had crashed. We watched together as he sat there in the car, and as the medical squad quickly arrived and as they unhurriedly went about their business to extricate this most special driver from his car. Ron became anxious to hear someone, anyone tell him more info, even though we both knew, watching what seemed like slo-mo activities surrounding Senna’s car, that the worst had occurred.

He changed over to ESPN, who were carrying F1 coverage at the time. They knew far less than we did. Back to the raw feed, back again to broadcast he went, panic in his eyes as he realized we’d lost Ayrton Senna; we’d lost the best driver of his generation.

We shed many tears that morning and I still get goosebumps thinking about the experience. The loss still reverberates 18 years on, fresh wounds now that the Senna Movie is out there and shows the passion, the fierce competitiveness and the soul of the driver who left us way too soon.

I’ve never been to Imola but I go there every time I think of Ayrton Senna da Silva and his uncalled-for death. Senna was a giant amongst giants. As long as we think of him he’ll never really die.

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