By J.D. LeipoldSeptember 8, 2011
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 8, 2011) -- On Sept. 11, 2001, Army top fuel dragster Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher was slated to be at the Pentagon for a visit with Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Maude.
Maude had been instrumental in fostering the Army's relationship a year earlier with the National Hot Rod Association and NASCAR.
Schumacher couldn't make the trip, though, and was instead in Pennsylvania when he watched the horror unfold on television and he learned that Maude ended up being the highest-ranking officer killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
Maude was holding a meeting in his newly renovated offices on the west side of the Pentagon when American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the building. Maude and 124 others in the Pentagon were killed along with 64 passengers on the plane.
Today, just three days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Schumacher and Army NASCAR driver Ryan Newman paid their respects by presenting a wreath in memory of Maude at the Pentagon Memorial, adjacent to the west side of the building.
"I was supposed to be in the building in a meeting with General Maude, but it got cancelled and I was asked instead to visit a high school in Reading, Pa., that day," Schumacher recalled, looking over the nearly two-acre memorial. "We all have our time, but that day wasn't mine but for the Grace of God."
"It's reminders like this beautiful memorial that we have to keep in our hearts. We have to keep it because things will always be different because of what those terrorists did on 9/11," he said. "It's our great men and women in our armed forces who are the reasons why we can still go on and be a free nation."
While this was one of many trips Schumacher has made to the Pentagon in his 11-year association with the Army, this was Newman's first to the capital. Having visited the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery earlier in the day and then the Pentagon and its memorial, Newman said he was humbled by the 189 benches -- each representing one of the fallen in the Pentagon attack.
"In the end, you wish you weren't standing here having to appreciate the memorial, but then when you are here, you understand the sacrifices and dedication of people in the service who keep us a free country," Newman said.