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Mike Ruefer Column - Things will never be the same (Read 2821 times)
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Mike Ruefer Column - Things will never be the same
02/20/16 at 1:36pm
February 20, 2016

My Two Cent$ by Mike Ruefer

It's been 15 years since Dale Earnhardt died while racing in the Daytona 500 and my Dad died a day later. I remember those days as if it was yesterday. As a writer the best way that I could cope with the events that took place was to write and let my feelings out. This column was originally published in February 2001 on the pages of "Behind the Wheel" and the "Midstates Racing News". I still miss you both.
Bleacher Views by Mike Ruefer
Things will never be the same
For just about every year since CBS started the live broadcasts of the Daytona 500, my family has had some kind of celebration or get together and we would watch the race. It even became more enjoyable 12 years ago when my youngest daughter was born on Daytona eve. During her first full day, we watched the race in that small hospital room.
This year unlike most of the past 12 years when we had Birthday and Daytona parties in the house, we had to shift gears. Family life is a busy life and with Basketball games and Confirmation all falling on the race weekend, we adjusted our schedule. With the VCR running and with the race coverage just starting we left the house.
All was going well up to this point, things went smooth in church and later we even won a basketball game. I even had time to get home and watch the last part of the race. As I walked in the door the massive wreck was just taking place. I was in awe as I saw Tony Stewart flipping, helplessly down the track and seeing destroyed racecars sliding everywhere. With both Gibbs cars sitting next to each other, I was relieved when Tony climbed from his car and everyone was safe.
After the carnage cleared and the race resumed I settled in for what seemed to be a great finish. The last remaining laps, as we all know are history. The exuberance and euphoria of Michael Waltrip winning his first race and Daytona 500 were quickly being extinguished by the tragedy that was unfolding when Dale Earnhardt hit the wall. I knew quickly that it was not right. You could see the look on Ken Schraders face during his post crash interview. The fact that the cameras stayed away from the car and little was said about Dale caused concern. We all expected the worst.
A short time later our greatest fear was announced. I was truly stunned when I heard that Dale Earnhardt had died. I was in shock. Those who know me well know that I’m a big fan. Dale Earnhardt to me was a hero. He was the reason I still followed NASCAR as closely as I did. Heck, he was NASCAR. I like the million of other fans could not believe that he was gone.
We cried that night. All my family and my closest friends called me to share their disbelief. The best call as I look back, was from my Dad. While we talked, he tried to comfort my loss, as he knew how I felt. He didn’t talk long, as he could not. Just hearing his voice and concern helped a lot.
That conversation with my Dad on that Sunday night would be my last, as he died the next day. No matter how well you think you’re prepared, you are not. I was in shock once more. He was a great guy and father and even in his late hours, with his severely declining health, he thought of me. It is said that, “Great men do not think of themselves but think of others”. I know now, that this is very true for both Dale Earnhardt and Eugene Ruefer.
Everything changes and life must go on. This year will be like no other as we mourn for those who have gone before us. They would though, tell us to carry on and be strong. The race of life continues but things will never be the same.
I will miss you both.

Mike Ruefer
Photographer & Writer
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