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What Justin Wilson’s Death Taught Me

Drafting the Circuits

By: Candice Smith  @Chief187s

 

Justin Wilson Pocono Raceway 8 23 15

Justin Wilson August 23, 2015 Pocono International Raceway ABC Supply Co. 500 Photo Courtesy of Candice Smith

Death is the great equalizer.

In racing, dying doing what you love adds you to a new fraternity.

On Monday, August 24, 2015 Justin Wilson joined that solemn order.

I was at Pocono International Raceway covering the Verizon IndyCar ABC Supply Co. 500 the day before Wilson died. The race was action-packed, caution-riddled, and full of lead changes and awe-inspiring moments.

When Sage Karam, Nazareth, PA native and a young gun in the series, had his accident the media center took a collective gasp, but it was understood he was alright rather quickly. But the debris – a nosecone from Karam’s car – flew into the cockpit of Wilson’s car and the room lost all air.

The lack of information was defeating. The endless caution, the wait for medical help, and the lost ramblings of the television commentators added to the feeling of utter hopelessness.

Silence is deafening.

Our IndyCar representatives in the media center were all plain faced and business-like. No one gave away news, clues, or anything.

We sat. We waited. We shifted in our chairs. We spoke in whispers. Minutes seemed like hours.

We willed Wilson to give a thumb’s up, to get out of the car and walk away from the brutal accident, tall and proud.

But that never happened.

When the helicopter was put into action to airlift Wilson to the hospital we all prayed mightily that all would be fixed, but many of us knew…

I found it difficult to breathe in the media center. I tried to escape but I still had a job to do. The race ended and the third, second, and first place drivers were brought into the media center to answer questions about the race.

Focusing on the task at hand I asked my questions keeping them focused on the race and not on the accident that Josef Newgarden, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Ryan Hunter-Reay had not learned about in detail.

After I asked my question of Newgarden, Montoya, and winner Hunter-Reay I packed my computer and left Pocono.

Wilson’s injuries and subsequent death, announced the next evening, felt eerily familiar.

It wasn’t the type of wreck or injury, but the feelings I was experiencing that affected me.

In February 2001, as a race fan, I had felt exactly this way waiting to hear news about Dale Earnhardt who had wrecked and was taken to the hospital from the Daytona 500.

We prayed, we hoped, we rationalized… but we lost him.

In October 2011 in Las Vegas we went through the same emotions with IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon.

Formula One driver Jules Bianchi’s accident in September 2014 left us hanging on for months, but he succumbed in July of this year.

Racing, we’re told, is inherently dangerous. Drivers understand this and still have a compulsion to race.

Safety precautions have come a long way in all of the different Motorsports series, but nothing is risk-proof.

More discussions of safety will ensue following Wilson’s death.

We mourn now. Wilson left behind two beautiful little girls, a widow who loved and adored him, parents and a brother who have to go on without him.

Wilson’s friends, teammates, and fans have to move on without him now, too.

But there is hope.

Life goes on… simple and trite, but true.

Wilson was full of life. In death he provided life for six lucky people because he was a donor. They will live because of Wilson.

Many more may fill out the donor card because Wilson inspired them.

Wilson’s life was not lived in vain, but lived with love.

Wilson gave of himself, was generous, gracious, hard-working, and engaging.

Death, in its finality, offers lessons. Wilson’s lesson has reverberations that will last for generations.

This summer I have lost many – drivers like Bianchi and Wilson but also my media friend Holly “Kate Moss” Golembiewski.

It’s easy to get mired down in depression having lost so many, but I try to remember that death is a part of the life cycle.

Life is also unpredictable so it’s okay to eat ice cream before (for) dinner, get the nerve up to tell him/her you love them, and live your life the way you want to do so.

Let the deaths of public figures give you the encouragement to suck the life out of, well, YOUR LIFE.

Wilson will be remembered, his influence and personality revered, and his organs implanted into six people so he will, in essence, live forever in all of these different families.

We simply need to remember that when death happens to us or around us, it is our duty to keep living.

 

One comment

  1. Well written Candice, racers race because they like to go fast! Sometimes going fast has penalties! Sometimes those penalties are ultimately huge and final. But the love of ” going fast ” is overlooked until the fact of ones mortality is realized. There is no more respect a fellow racer can show than to get right back behind the wheel and go fast or faster ! Checker flags have fallen for Justin Wilson, but soon the race will recieve it’s green flag and he will be remembered as another race begins.
    Thank You, Candice for another fine article.

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