Saturday, June 8, 2013

Texas Loves You Moore - Honorary Co-Grand Marshals and Race Starter representatives from Moore, Okla. and West, Texas


Life is, quite often all about perspective. Sometimes that perspective sneaks up on you. 

Other times it roars. 

When the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550 honorary Co-Grand Marshals and Honorary Starter started speaking in the media center at Texas Motor Speedway, the usually casual atmosphere shifted to one heavy with emotion.

Plaza Towers Elementary School teachers Jennifer Simonds and Anna "Sam" Canaday risked their lives to protect their students when the EF-5 tornado cut a swath of destruction through Moore, Okla. CJ Gillaspie is the captain of the West Volunteer Fire Department and was one of the team of first responders on the scene when the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion devastated the small Texas town.

Texas Motor Speedway invited them as a representative tribute to those whose lives were lost or changed forever in the tragedies that struck the communities of West and Granbury, Texas and Moore and Tulsa, Okla. 

Simonds and Canaday covered the school children with their bodies to protect those precious lives as best they could. 

"I think it was just instinct," said Simonds. "I've lived the majority of my life. They're five and six. They haven't lived their lives. I just wanted to protect them. I don't see myself as a hero."

"I agree with Jennifer. I'm not a hero," said Canaday. "You're just thankful to just be there, and that the kids under you are okay. Those babies mean the world to us."

"Those people who came out of their homes and they dug us out, with no thought to what they had left, those are the heroes."

Gillaspie said, "We're not out there trying to be heroes, we're just doing our jobs."

That's a matter of perspective. From the outside looking in, they, and all the other thousands who stepped up in the face of unimaginable tragedy, look exactly like heroes. 

The trio spoke of the outpouring of love and support from their communities and from as far away as England. They expressed appreciation at the opportunity to get away from the stress of dealing with the aftermath of the disaster and the realities of rebuilding. 

I'm public works director for the city and we're working on infrastructure right now," said Gillaspie, "so it's been pretty much 24-hour days." He welcomes the chance to spend a little time with his wife. 
Canaday was just happy to have a hot shower. "Living in a camper, you don't get that too much." 

Simonds had never watched or been to a race, so she said it would be an experience. Canaday's watched when her brother did some dirt racing, but she hadn't been to a major race. 

Gillaspie grew up watching his dad watch races. He added, "One of my real good friends that died in that fire was a real good fan to NASCAR. Cody. I'm here for him...I'm not just waving it for me, but I'm waving it for him and all the victims of West."
 

Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

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