I don't think that people who aren't from Indianapolis can understand how big a deal the race really, actually is in this city. Especially for me. My dad died in early May two years ago, but that year would have been his 50th straight race. He started by selling newspapers there as a kid, then worked on cars and radios, then just hung around the track and enjoyed seeing his friends. I can't really remember the exact date of his death, but when the Radio Network guys called the first lap, I couldn't keep from crying.
When I was little my mom and I would always make his ham and green pepper sandwiches the night before and pack his little cooler. He would be gone long before I ever got up (the rest of us went a few times and we would always be inside the track and standing at the top of the grandstands before the 5 am opening signal "bomb" went off), but we would get up and watch the local news teams covering the drivers and fans until they weren't allowed to broadcast from inside the track anymore (about 10, an hour before the race started). Then they'd talk to people who were hurrying to get to their seats and show the drunk fans and it was time to switch on the radio for the race. I can't really "feel" the race unless I'm hearing it on the radio to this day. Seeing on television is so removed, but the guys on the radio always feel the same and like I'm curled up in my dad's big chair listening to it happen a few miles from home. And "Back Home Again" (in Indiana) also made me teary. It's a sad reminder that the next time Jim Nabors sings that song, I'll be an ocean away from Indiana and may never be here for its singing again. I love being a Hoosier. My dad would always come home about six and tell us a little about the race, then we'd all watch at 7 (or I'd usually fall asleep after the pre-race festivities). You see, they block out the race in Indianapolis (except for one year to celebrate the local ABC affiliate's big anniversary) and show it at night. So, you can either go to the race, drive somewhere that gets another ABC station or listen on the radio. Anyway, I love race day.
The other cool thing of the day was the Stealth bomber. We'd gone to buy shoes and were leaving the parking lot when I spotted something in the air. So we got out and watched for a good 15 minutes as it circled the north side of Indianapolis waiting for its cue to fly over the track. That was cool! And then I remind myself of the evils of the military-industrial complex and go back to thinking that the stealth bombers are really cool. And it was low! Not quite as low as the time that it flew over our heads in the third turn, but still pretty low. London is going to be fantastic and so are the places that I land for law school and beyond, but I'll always think of Indianapolis as home. And I'll probably always cry, every time that I hear "Back Home Again" on the day before Memorial Day from Indianapolis.