Normally, the sprawling expanse of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is all about superhuman achievement. Keep that in mind while we explain what happened at the now-silent track this past week. Hundreds of thousands jam the property every year to observe the world’s most prestigious automotive competition, the Indianapolis 500. Winning that race will make you a legend for eternity, guaranteed. Last week, however, the speedway played host to a very different kind of public event. For the first time in IMS history, which dates back to 1909, the speedway hosted a funeral procession. It marked the passing of Officer Breann Leath of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, an armed forces veteran who achieved her life’s goal of working in law enforcement. She was 24 years old when she was fatally shot while answering a call for a domestic disturbance.
The image, courtesy of IMS, gives you an example of the scope of her memorial service. The hearse bearing Officer Leath’s remains was flanked by two columns of IMPD motorcycles and patrol cars, ferrying a total of 1,900 Indiana police officers. The officer received a 21-gun salute before a final 10-42, the IMPD radio signal for end of watch, was broadcast over the department’s frequencies. We are all coming to grips with our mortality during these difficult days. Over the past week, COVID-19 has claimed former Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year Bob Lazier (his son, Buddy, heroically won the 1996 race while driving with a broken back), the East Windsor Speedway and New Egypt Speedway stock car star Ron Jon Koczon, and my friend John-John Lane, an award-winning third-generation motorsports photographer. Let’s please be careful and pay close attention to the medical realities of this pandemic, because it’s going to be with us for a long time.