Nov. 15 was the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death. He was tragically killed in a house fire in Wichita. To be honest, it still hurts a lot to type those words. You never think it’ll happen to your family — until it does. As a member of the media I’ve covered many fires — and since that fire, every single house fire hurts in a way they never did before. But, that’s not really the point of this column.
With that said, one of my favorite memories of my father and I were when we went to a monster truck show together in Wichita. I had somehow (I don’t remember how now) scored two free tickets to the show. Nobody else was available to go, so he offered to go. Little did I know at the time it would be one of my most precious memories of him and I. It was an indoor arena, it was very loud and we did not bring earplugs. We did a lot of yelling and cheering our favorite trucks on and left with a pretty good vehicle exhaust induced headache. But, we had a good time.
This year on Nov. 15, I went to the Blizzard Bash in Topeka in honor of my dad. It seemed a fitting tribute. It wasn’t a monster truck show, but it was something we truly would have enjoyed going to together. And, to top it off, I was right in the front row. (Which later proved to be the row you get pelted with flying mud). If you’re not familiar with the Blizzard Bash, it’s a large, indoor demolition derby held each year in Topeka as part of the Ultimate Derby. The event is exciting, energizing and often filled with plenty of drama in addition to the already-exciting event. With a demolition derby, just about anything can happen. And, at this event, it did. In the first heat alone, two cars flipped and one caught on fire. No drivers were injured, but the fire was very scary as the driver was still inside. You can imagine why this bothered me so much. But, the driver was fine and after a while, my heartbeat finally slowed down.
In another heat a driver was sprayed with radiator fluid — he ran across the arena, fire suit steaming, stripping off some of the hot clothing once he reached the edge. Again, he was fine. But sometimes demolition derby isn’t for the faint of heart.
But, it wasn’t the drama of the derby that had me fighting tears. It was the Jumbotron. All around the arena, posters asked people to post selfies and other highlights of their experiences on social media under the #blizbash hashtag. I typed up a status on Twitter and my first status read like this: “Blizzard Bash delivering some drama today.” But then I saw a perfect opportunity to honor my dad. So, my next tweet said this: “I’m here in memory of my dad, Charlie Adams. Rest in peace dad. #blizbash”
Service was spotty in the arena, so I had to wait several minutes for my phone to send the tweets. Then I waited for them to show up on the Jumbotron. I saw the first one scroll across and I hoped they would post my second one. When it finally flashed across the screen I felt a wave of emotion I wasn’t expecting. There, on the Jumbotron was my dad’s name. He would have been so proud. It was the perfect way to honor my dad, who was truly an amazing man. And I’m glad I got to honor him at the derby.