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Stuart & Stuart - The Long Drive Home

Thu, 2017-02-16 15:28

What’s on your mind?

It was September 11th, 2001. I was sleeping comfortably in my bed at the Pepper Mill Inn in Reno, Nevada. The phone was ringing. 6 am. It was my dear friend Andrew Thibodeau calling to ask if I had heard the news? Was I watching the TV? Was I ok? In a groggy state, in a sleepy voice, confused I questioned him, “What are you talking about?” “New York! The World Trade Centre! Turn on your TV.

As I fumbled to find the remote. I felt panic rush through me. That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you come over the first hill on a giant roller coaster. As the television warmed up and the picture appeared. The first tower smoking and then I saw it live. The second plane hit. The newscaster, “America is under attack.”

I called the school I was speaking at that morning. “Sorry Stu the school is closed today. We don’t know what’s happening and this is not the day to have an assembly.” I jumped in my rented Ford Explorer and dashed to the airport. Maybe I could grab an early flight home. Get back to my family. To the safety of Canada. I quickly found out I wasn’t getting out early. In fact not at all. I saw the long line-up at the rental car counters. Heard the angry voices, “But I need a car. I have to get home! You must have something!” Looking down at the keys in my hand. I had a rental. I have a way home. I hopped in my SUV and began the long drive home. Reno to Toronto. Almost 3000 miles. Up the West coast to Vancouver then across Canada to Toronto.

Once in my car I turned on the radio. Every channel screaming at me. “We are at war”, “It was the Russians”, “Terrorists!”, “6 more planes missing”.

I listened to the craziness. Watched gas prices rise to 5, 6 dollars a gallon. People I would meet at service centre talking of not trusting their neighbours, how the government should retaliate and who they should attack. I felt sick. I turned off the radio. Called home. No answer. Nothing. I never felt so alone. I drove quietly for hours. Thinking perhaps this could be it. Was this the end of the world? These are the things I was thinking. If you weren’t in America during those first 24 hours you have no idea the terrified panic that gripped an entire nation. I needed to get to British Columbia. Even though I would still be more than 2000 miles from my actual home, being across the boarder I would be safe.

Somehow crossing the 49th parallel would be better than where I was. My head began to race. I turned on the radio again, hoping for some music. No. Every station became all news. Worse was the talk radio. The world was in crisis. I pulled over to stretch, clear my head. Then I remembered. I had brought CD’s with me. A double set of “Vinyl Cafe Stories”. Stuart McLean. I got back behind the wheel. Placed the CD in the slot. The car gobbled it up. Like it wanted to hear something different too! The second the sound of his voice filled my car, I relaxed. My shoulders dropped and my grip loosened on the wheel. I felt ok. I somehow felt safe. I was no longer alone. I had Dave, Morley, Stephanie, Sam and the neighbourhood with me. My car was full. I listened maybe 3 times to every story. I don’t think I would have survived that trip. That insanity without those stories. There we were, Stuart and Stuart driving through the Majestic rockies, the never-ending horizon of the prairies, the beauty and awesomeness of Lake Superior. I was traveling through MY country with the best tour guide I could wish for. Stuart McLean you saved me on that journey. Thank you. I will miss you. You are part of large deposits in my memory bank! We are all better because of you. You deserve an Arthur Award. Perhaps more than anyone else in history. Here are Stuart’s words that express it best…

“We do this thing. We open our hearts to the world around us. And the more we do that, the more we allow ourselves to love, the more we are bound to find ourselves one day - like Dave, and Morley, and Sam, and Stephanie - standing in the kitchen of our life, surrounded by the ones we love, and feeling empty, and alone, and sad, and lost for words, because one of our loved ones, who should be there, is missing. Mother or father, brother or sister, wife or husband, or a dog or cat. It doesn’t really matter. After a while, each death feels like all the deaths, and you stand there like eveyone else has stood there before you, while the big wind of sadness blows around and through you.” – Stuart McLean

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  • Stu Speaks

    Students were very engaged, enthusiastic and excited. Stu is hilarious…seriously. “Humour is never a bad thing” said one student.

    ~Annalisa Varano - Vice Principal - St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School
  • Stu Speaks

    They say a great presenter “leaves them wanting more”. Well, we loved your presentation and the entire team asked me when you will be back! You are truly STUpendous!

    ~Nancy Klensch - Founder of Summit Kids
  • Stu Speaks

    Stu is an energetic, entertaining and dynamic presenter. He captures is audiences’ attention and keeps the room engaged for the entire presentation! His stories in his presentation captures everyone at different points, even the teachers!

    ~Sara Meaney - Cobourg Collegiate Institute
  • Stu Speaks

    Stu was great! Staff and students felt it really broke the anxiety in the building and we even got cupcakes today from one of the students.

    ~Carrie Rowlandson - William Aberhart High School, Calgary Alberta
  • Stu Speaks

    Stu was fantastic. There is nothing better than seeing 600 adolescents laughing their heads off. He delivers a terrific message and has the entire audience engaged, thinking, listening and most importantly laughing within seconds, and he keeps it going for over an hour. Thanks again on behalf of the Shores!!

    ~Doug Woods - Vice Principal, Nantyr Shores Secondary School
  • Stu Speaks

    Stu’s speech did exactly what I hoped it would do when I tried to bring him in: it brought the school together for a good laugh while empowering the student body to be the change they wish to see in their classroom. I feel he hit this goal perfectly.

    ~Steven Fotheringham - Oakville Trafalgar High School
  • Stu Speaks

    I really liked how the speech really just seemed like Stu was telling us funny stories, but he always related it back to the overall message. It didn’t sound like a speech at all, it was as if he was just talking to the crowd. I would say that he is excellent in connecting with the audience and keeping them entertained. There was not a two minute period in Stu’s speech were nobody was laughing. He kept us amused throughout the entire presentation. I thought he was perfect.

    ~James Palloto
  • Stu Speaks

    I would highly recommend Stu, his engaging personality was a real hook for the students and his messages were ones that many of them could identify with. The humour was great and the students shared that they enjoyed the presentation.

    ~Teresa Fowler - W.H. Croxford High School, Airdrie, Alberta
  • Stu Speaks

    Stu is personable. Students are willing to listen to him. They enjoy listening to him. He has a message, but he is also entertaining. He is fun to listen to and students don’t feel talked down to or preached at.

    ~Tanya Lacey - McKinnon Park Secondary School, Caledonia, ON
  • Stu Speaks

    I was at the OCA conference on May 6th, and I just wanted to thank you on being such a wicked keynote… you definitely put me back in the camp mindset and reminded me of what’s truly important about the up-coming summer. Once again, a job very well done.

    ~Emily Summers
  • Stu Speaks

    The students really enjoyed Stu’s humour and low-key but critical message about getting involved and getting the most out of their High School experience. I would recommend Stu as a speaker who relates well to students, is funny, and gets the message out without preaching.

    Thank you,

    ~Lynn Toye