I recently rediscovered this photograph. To outsiders, it is just a family snapshot; it may even seem that way to the others in the image. I’m sure my parents (father pictured, mother photographer) remember this day, but I doubt it is as impactful. To me, this is a huge life changing moment: it was the first (and only) time I had witnessed somebody die.
My parents took my cousin (the boy in the photo) and I to a hotel for a mini vacation when I was six years old: it just happened to be the same weekend as the Daytona 500. My family doesn’t usually watch NASCAR, but my cousin was a huge fan and never missed a race, so we had it on. I remember Dale Earnhardt crashing (although I didn’t know it was him at the time), I remember being excited that something was happening besides people driving in circles and I remember my parents acting very strange afterwards. We walked down to the hotels bar to eat and the same footage was playing on every screen. That is when I knew he was dead, though I was unable to comprehend it.
That day, February 18, 2001, is one of my earliest memories.