I have been a life long Indy fan. I think the first time I ever went to the "track" was in 1974, when I was 6 years old. I fell in love with the place...not that I hadn't loved it before, mostly because Donald Davidson's descriptive broadcasts had brought life to the track, and delivered them to me in my home.
In my world, I discovered that the loss of Eddie Sachs was painful to so many people, even though he was killed four years before I was born.
I learned many years ago that people in my area remembered two stark realities, and could recall them with precision.
Everyone I know can tell you exactly what and where they were when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. They can tell you that the principal of their school announced the news, in person, room to room, that school was dismissed early, that it was a chilly but sunny day, and that they found their mother crying when they arrived home after school.
Those same people can tell you where they were and what they were doing when Eddie Sachs was tragically killed during the first laps of the 1964 Indianapolis 500.
My father can tell an interesting story, with great detail, because he was in the infield of Turn 4. He didn't see the accident first hand, but saw the smoke ("Black smoke was everywhere"), and the orange flames, and of course, the awful wreckage that was left behind.
"I was at 512 South Walnut, in the backyard, having a family cookout with my dad's brothers. We were stunned. Eddie was my favorite driver" my best friend says.
My neighbor was just a boy, and lived far away from the Circle City. Of course, when I learned that he had always followed Indy racing, I asked him the same question..."Where were you when Sachs was killed?" He replied, "I was just a lad. I couldn't have been 6 or 7 years old at the time. I loved Sachs, and when they announced his death over the radio, it was like someone had abruptly ended our annual backyard cookout. My dad turned off the radio, and we sat quietly for a while. My dad turned the race back on later, but the party was over."
I swear that I have never met a single person who didn't like Eddie Sachs. In my world, Sachs is a legendary figure, with a one-of-a-kind personality.
I think I can say the same thing about Dan Wheldon.
So, is Dan Wheldon the Eddie Sachs of my generation, or at least my 10 year old daughter's era?
By the way, we were listening to the Las Vegas race in our trusty silver Chevy, parked in the Meijer grocery store parking lot, when we heard that Wheldon had been killed. It was cloudy and overcast that day, and we weren't the only people in Meijer that were a little tearful that evening.