This past weekend marked the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, the attacks on our country. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years but time flies when you’re having fun… even when you’re not. I may be a couple of days late with this tribute, but I felt it important to “Never Forget.”

For some of you, 9/11 might just be an asterisk in a history book, but I think a lot of us remember exactly where we were that day. A Tuesday, clear blue skies, nary a cloud to be found. While I generally focus this Blog on our world of drag racing, I write this as a remembrance of that day. A day that changed forever how we would act as a country. Where were you when it happened?

It was the week of the Keystone Nationals in Reading, Pennsylvania, an event which actually happened last weekend, but in 2001, it was held two weeks after the U.S. Nationals. I had my rig all loaded for me to leave later in the day to park at Maple Grove Raceway for the event.

I had opened the shop and was preparing to visit my mother in her nursing home prior to leaving. As I got into my car to leave, my one employee came out to tell me that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings. Like a lot of us, we all probably thought it to be a small plane that inadvertently had problems to cause the crash.

As I left, the reports came over the radio in my car that it was indeed an airliner which had purposely been crashed into the building. What? That was about the only things going through our minds.

When I reached the nursing home, a lot of the residents were glued to the television set in their dining room, which is where we all watched live as a second plane crashed into the second tower. This was quickly becoming to our minds an act of terrorism. Still believing this to be an isolated incident, by the time I had left and returned to the shop, it was reported two other similar incidents had taken place at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA.

Immediately the word spread that all planes were grounded across the country, ordered to land at the nearest airport. My thoughts then were that if the Keystones were to go on, how would the hundreds of teams, drivers, crews, officials even get to the event.

Social media wasn’t what it is today and I don’t remember how the word eventually spread that the Keystones would be postponed, as would the dozens of other sporting events scheduled in the days ahead.

My late partner Dave Heuwetter worked on Wall Street, several blocks from the World Trade Center towers; at work that day prior to him meeting us at the Keystones later in the week. Our thoughts went out to him and with cell service seemingly disrupted, getting in touch with him was impossible. I think it wasn’t until later that night when his wife called to let us know she’d heard from him and he was safe.

Growing up, I lived just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, having driven up and down the northern section of the New Jersey Turnpike probably thousands of times, always seeing the huge twin towers as they stood. The skyline of Manhattan was forever changed that day, much like the way our lives have also changed.

July 4th, 1776. November 19th, 1863. December 7th, 1941. November 22nd, 1963. And now September 11th, 2001. All dates which one of them was termed by President Franklin Roosevelt as “a date which will live in infamy.” In today’s world, each of those dates, and many more like them, have defined our country and changed it in so many ways. And like it has been said so many times before, “Never forget!” -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO