What a difference a year can make. A year ago yesterday, my friends gathered around the high top tables at the bar in Red Robin in Aurora. I had just stepped into the building for my night serving shift when a dozen of my coworkers were getting up, about to head over to the theater. I just remember the big goofy smile on Sully’s face when he asked me for the thousandth time “are you sure you don’t want to come to the movie with us??”. I will never forget that smile.
That night was a horrible shift. Typical Thursday night at Red Robin: loud families, rude guests, and picky regulars. I was so ready to get out of there. At the end of the shift, H asked me what the plans were for tonight. He reminded me that we could still make it to the theater to watch the movie. I laughed. No way was I going to the theater. I remember saying that “all the crazies go to midnight premieres.” You have no clue how much I’d like to take back that statement. And in all honesty, all I wanted to do was head over to our favorite bar, have some drinks and play some pool. “We’ll celebrate Sully’s birthday with him tomorrow,” I assured H. Again, words that weigh heavy on my heart. So we headed to the bar, relaxed, drank, and headed home around 2am.
I had no idea what was happening until 5am when I got the first phone call. H was heading to the hospital and I couldn’t wrap my mind around why. I peeled myself out of bed and turned on the TV. None of us were prepared for what we were seeing. At 8am, H and I went to Red Robin and met with the managers to fill them in on what we knew. I don’t think I even fathomed the reality of what had happened until C (I’ll leave her name out of this) walked in. Her voice was clear as she explained what had happened in the theater; her hands were shaking wildly; and her shirt was drenched in blood.
I don’t need to tell you what happened. And I don’t need to describe my friends’ injuries. We all have seen the images, read the articles, and listened to the interviews. What you probably haven’t heard is the scariest part. The chaos in not knowing. H and I went back to work the next night and we didn’t know. We didn’t know which hospitals our friends were at. We didn’t know the extent of their injuries. And we didn’t know that Sully hadn’t even made it out of the theater until 8pm that night.
For several months I was in a haze. I was working more than I had ever worked before, drinking more than I would like to admit, and struggling with the guilt of not being in that theater. But finally, I am in a better place. I ended the unhealthy relationship that I was in, moved away from all the stress and triggers, and as of a month ago, finally stepped foot in a movie theater. And I still think of Sully every day. Our mantra since that day has been We Will Rise. And we have risen.
This day is all about celebrating you, Sully.
This day is to remember your thunderous laughter, your goofy dance moves, and your love of Guinness.
Miss you every day.
For breakfast, I decided that what we really needed was some comfort food with a little tribute to Sully. We always used to make fun of him for chugging such a rich, heavy beer. Enjoy…
Oven-Fried Chicken and Guinness Waffles
for the chicken
4 raw chicken tenderloins (2 per person)
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (seasoned with salt and pepper)
2 Tbl wholegrain mustard with Guinness (or just a good whole grain mustard)
1 tsp honey
for the waffles
1 cup AP flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbl cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl melted butter
1/2 cup milk
about 8 oz of Guinness (add more if it is too dry)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. Mix the honey and mustard together and cover the chicken with the mixture. Dredge in Panko crumbs.
3. Spray a foil lined cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay the chicken out. Spray the top of the chicken as well. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken has reached 165 F and the crust had begun to brown.
4. Meanwhile, mix all the dry ingredients together. Create a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients, including the egg. Whisk together until well combined, but a few lumps may still remain.
5. Pour batter into a preheated and greased waffle iron. Cook until they begin to brown and have crispy edges.
6. Serve immediately topped with the oven-fried chicken and a runny fried egg. Serve with syrup of your choice.
Happy Birthday Sully.