Couple Of Firecrackers

June 30th, 2011

This is a good weekend to remember friends, family, history, what we all mean to each other. A good weekend to remember just how fortunate we are, every single one of us, to be here in America. To be here together. To be here at all.

This is a good weekend to remember.

As published in The Daily News, July 1, 2011, and in The Memphis News, July 2-8, 2011

Firecracker  Libby2


This July Fourth weekend, I’ll be doing what many of you will be doing. Dealing with some part of a pig and some brand of beer, laughing with folks, and hopefully pausing to be hopeful, remembering those who made and make it possible for all of us to do all of that. I’ll also be doing what a couple hundred guys in our forces in Afghanistan will be doing – remembering two cute Memphis girls.

These girls were seriously cute. Not just the bubbly-fun-to-be-with kind of cute, but the stop-what-you’re-doing-and-watch-them-walk-across-the-frat-house-living-room kind of cute. And they were inseparable. If you asked Libby Wilson a question, Susan Fortner might answer. If Susan wore a favorite pair of jeans on Tuesday, Libby would be wearing them on Friday. They were roommates, of course, and they were both Little Sisters of my fraternity. Of course. We were idiots about most things, but not about Little Sisters. Libby would marry Gary, a fraternity brother, and Susan would marry Steve, a big strapping end on the football team … unfortunately on the Arkansas football team, not Tennessee’s. Over the ensuing years, we’ve had a pact: I don’t sing Rocky Top, he doesn’t call the hogs.

Both would move here, juggle the challenges of careers and family, and, like the rest of us, drop some and catch some. And they would stay inseparable. When Susan took the job as fitness director at The Racquet Club, she called on fitness instructor, Libby, to help her organize The Firecracker 5K to benefit St. Jude.

That was in the fall of 1998. In January of 1999, Libby got a bad headache. She was dead in May. And when she died, there were still some of Susan’s clothes in her closet and some of hers in Susan’s.

This Sunday, July 3, Wilson Stooksberry – fitness instructor, Air Force and Afghanistan vet, and Libby’s son – will lace up his shoes and run in his mother’s honor. Reid Hedgepeth – builder, city councilman, and Susan’s son – will join him in the 14th Comcast Firecracker 5K Susan has organized. So will more than 2,000 others, running in the race held in Libby’s honor for years, raising hundreds of thousands for St. Jude.

And at 9 p.m. our time Sunday, it will be 6:30 in the morning on the Fourth of July in Kabul, Afghanistan, when several hundred of our troops will lace up their shoes and run for Libby to raise money for St. Jude.

To come full circle, both of my kids work for St. Jude on the fundraising side, so for what Susan and so many others do every year, for what our own troops are doing to honor Libby on a day we honor them, our family is personally thankful.

As I’ve said before, there are practically zero degrees of separation between folks in Memphis and seemingly the rest of the world.

Between Susan and Libby, always, there is less separation than that.

I’m a Memphian, and I remember.


Jackie Vickers: Daniel: What a very wonderful story. And so beautifully told. I've only just read it, but I hope lots and lots of money was raised in her memory.

Tamara Vance: Thank you for this touching story.

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