Wellstone, Hedberg, Sealy among notable Minnesotans lost this decade
On May 20, 2000, the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise was rocked by a tragedy that made on-court concerns suddenly seem trivial. Malik Sealy an amiable, defensive-minded role player, was killed in a car crash early that morning when a drunk driver, going the wrong way, struck Sealy's airbag-less SUV head-on on Highway 100 in St. Louis Park. The 30-year-old was heading home from Kevin Garnett's birthday party.
Before the November 4 home opener against the Kings six months later, the Wolves retired his #2 jersey in front of a packed house of 19,006 fans. PA announcer Rod Johnson read a tribute before the solemn crowd.
"As I was reading, I happened to look over at the Timberwolves standing along the sidelines," says Johnson. "I saw the tears streaming down their cheeks. That's the closest I've ever come to getting choked up and not being able to continue."
In honor and memory of Sealy, the team left his locker untouched for the remainder of the season.
Six-year-old Abigail Taylor's parents took her to the Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park in the summer of 2007 so she could splash in the wading pool, but their day came to a tragic end after Abby fell and found herself stuck, sitting on the pool's drain -- she couldn't move as its pump sucked out 21 feet of her intestines. Grievously injured, she eventually endured a triple organ transplant, couldn't eat or drink regular food, and eventually died nine months after the accident. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was among those later sponsoring federal legislation aimed at preventing similar accidents in the future.
The tragic death of Sen. Wellstone, along with his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, and four others in a northern Minnesota plane crash in October 2002, sent shock waves throughout the state that in some ways are still reverberating. Wellstone's death was felt not just politically but personally by his supporters (and by many who weren't), who had come to admire the onetime college professor after his wildly improbable underdog victory in 1990 over incumbent Rudy Boschwitz. That impish, underfunded campaign, and his uncompromising liberalism in an era of ideological dissembling, made Wellstone not just a well-liked politician but a mascot for political integrity, a position that has gone largely unfilled since.