As the events of the tragedy at Canandaigua Motorsports Park unfolded late Saturday night and into Sunday morning, I was glued to twitter, searching for answers. I was hoping for the best but fearing the worst. When it became clear that a young sprint car driver named Kevin Ward Jr. had lost his life, I was at a loss for words.
Sadly the same was not true for many others. I was appalled by some of the comments from so-called racing fans who were already labeling Tony Stewart as a killer who should be thrown in jail. But just as distressing were those who put the blame solely on Ward. I decided to turn off my computer and get some sleep but sleep wouldn’t come.
My heart was heavy and I was fighting back tears, wondering why this had hit me so hard. But then I realized it was bringing back memories of a much deeper personal loss. My brother was struck and killed three years ago by a young man while riding his bicycle home from the store.
It wasn’t the first time I had lost a family member but this one was different. Losing someone is never easy but losing someone suddenly and in such a violent manner is even more devastating.
As I thought about it, I began to understand to some small extent the anger that was permeating the pages of twitter and other social media. I remember being furious with this young man whose only mistake was to take his eyes off the road for a few seconds. It wasn’t fair and I wanted, no I needed, someone to blame.
It makes little difference that most of the people expressing their outrage don’t actually know Tony Stewart or had never heard of Kevin Ward Jr. until now. The racing community is a diverse collection of people who call themselves family and they are hurting.
I would never compare my loss to what Ward’s parents are experiencing. The loss of a child is unthinkable and I can’t begin to imagine the depths of their sorrow. My heart also breaks for the torment that Stewart is going through. The suggestion that he intended to harm Ward is preposterous. This tragic incident will undoubtedly haunt him the rest of his life.
What I do know is that anger and blame are roads that will only lead to more heartache. I forgave that young man who I truly believe was suffering as much as I was and let myself grieve for my brother and begin to heal. It forever changed my life as I’m sure it did his.
The simple truth is that this was a senseless tragedy and there will never be an acceptable resolution. Could it have been prevented? Possibly, but as with most things in life, we make decisions and have to live with the consequences of our actions. It’s easy to go back and say if only, but there is no rewind in life. All we can do is move forward together and search for ways to ensure that this type of accident doesn’t happen again.
Sometimes life isn’t fair and there are no easy answers.