Originally published September 11, 2011
Sept. 11, 2001 is a day etched in the minds of Americans forever.
Ten years ago, terrorist attacks killed nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa.
Some of NHRA biggest stars reflected back on the events of that tragic day.
“I was supposed to be at the Pentagon with (Lt.) General (Timothy) Maude and all of those guys (on 9/11), and it got diverted for whatever reason,” said seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher who drives the U.S. Army dragster. “I was supposed to go down there and sign autographs. We ended up going to the Reading (Pa.) high school we were supposed to go to. The principal of the school called me in and said ‘you have to look at this.’ I was watching the deal (the attacks) on the news and the fighter planes flew right over the school. It was very real. You are in disbelief of how bad people can be, simply put. You are in disbelief in what is happening. This is America man. I was in shock and in awe about what was going on.”
Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude was killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
On Monday, shortly before eliminations at 11 a.m. EDT at the U.S. Nationals, NHRA is having a special tribute in recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Like Schumacher, Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III also remembers 9/11 vividly.
“I was running a manager’s meeting at our dealership in East Providence, and it was pretty much a do not disturb meeting,” said Tasca III, who is from Hope, R.I. “We were in the middle of the meeting and a salesman came up and knocked on the door and took one of the managers out of the room, which I thought was kind of awkward because that doesn’t happen in those meetings. It could not have been five minutes later and the manager came back in the room and said ‘you guys really need to come down and watch the TV. Terrorists just flew a plane into the World Trade Center.’ I will never forget that moment.”
That’s because it hit close to home immediately for Tasca. Tasca’s dad, Bob Jr., who was on the president Rhode Island Dealer’s Association, had a meeting in Washington, D.C. that day.
“My dad got on a plane that morning (Sept. 11, 2001) to fly from Rhode Island to Washington, D.C.,” the younger Tasca said. “We saw on TV what happened at the World Trade Center and then we heard about the incident in Washington (D.C.), it was all happening at the same time. I couldn’t get a hold of my dad and I get goose bumps right now just thinking about it because we didn’t know where he was or if he was OK. We knew he wasn’t on any of planes, obviously, because they came out of Boston and he flew out of Providence.”
What Tasca didn’t realize at the time was his dad was already in a meeting in the Senate building.
“My dad said it was unbelievable what happened,” the younger Tasca said. “They were in the middle of a meeting and all of sudden security people came in and took all of the senators away and whisked them right out of the building. Once the senators were out of the building, they informed everyone else they had to leave. My dad finally got a hold of me and he ended up going to a car dealer and bought a car. He took a car off a dealer’s lot who knew us and he said we are buying it. I was on my computer giving my dad directions to go way around New York City to get him home. It was a scary time. What happened to us was not a fraction of what people lost and sacrificed during that day. It was an emotional day for us along with the whole country to have to see something like that happen, but you will never forget that.”
Top Fuel driver Scott Palmer remembers 9/11 every year because that his birthday.
“I remember exactly what I was doing on Sept. 11, 2001,” Palmer said. “I dropped my son off for school and he was 10 years old at the time. I went to my paint shop, which I had back then in Nixa, Mo. I had a TV in the office of my paint shop and I was sitting there and I watched everything happen. So I called the school and they were letting kids out, so I went and picked my son up from school. The first thing my son said was ‘dad I’m sorry they ruined your birthday.’ I will never forget that. I was turning 38 years old (at the time). Now every year on my birthday I will never forget what happened on 9/11. It still seems like yesterday that happened and it has been 10 years.”
Tasca also realizes how America has changed because of 9/11.
“You just get on airplane today and it will never be the same as it was before 9/11,” Tasca said. “The wars overseas have continued and the sacrifices have certainly continued to this day to try and keep America safe. I think we are safer today than we have ever been. We are certainly more aware of the risks of these extremists. Not that we were lulled to sleep before 9/11, but clearly no one dreamed that could ever happen in America. It is just such a tragedy that so many people had to die.”
Schumacher, meanwhile, has a hard time believing the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a decade ago.
“I’m still in disbelief that someone would do that,” Schumacher said. “To most people when you talk about it, it seems like they just did it. We have a pretty good handle on it, but like anything there is never a safe day when there are people out there like that trying to do harm, but we are in the safest place in the world. You have to keep it in perspective. We have amazing security in the United States, and we are the most free place. You can’t ask for freedom without a military because those guys are giving it to us. We have massive technology and the best people in the world who are keeping us safe. It is absolutely mind-boggling that we have not had anything (like 9/11) happen in 10 years. That is how good we are because they are trying every day.”
The events of 9/11 are also still fresh in the mind of Top Fuel driver Terry McMillen.
“It is just such a sad deal and so many people were lost and we are never going to forget that and I think that it is unfortunate that our country is going through this turmoil with other countries and terrorists who are trying to take away the good of mankind here (in America),” McMillen said. “It just really stinks and it is not right and I personally am not trying to be political but I think everybody who causes harm to the United States should be penalized instantly. We are a powerhouse nation and we need to live up to that, and people need to pay when they do things wrong to us.”
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