In July 2000, I was Sports Editor of the Ballymoney and Moyle Times and, like thousands of other motorcycling fans across the globe, was stunned by the tragic news of Joey Dunlop's death in Estonia.
The town became a focal point to mourn for bikes fans of all ages and creeds - and remains so to this day, with a statue of Joey, later to be joined by that of his younger brother, Robert, who died at the North West 200 in 2008, becoming a vital stopping off point for those heading to the Triangle circuit.
Some 50,000 mourners - a conservative estimate - came to the outskirts of Ballymoney to mourn the loss of their idol and show their support to Joey's wife, Linda, their children and a family that is part of the fabric of north Antrim.
Here is what I wrote that day...
ONE moment above all encapsulated a day like no other in Ballymoney's history.
At eight minutes past two on Friday afternoon, the doors opened at Joey Dunlop's Garryduff Road home and thousands of people fell silent. It is a sensation I will never forget or will experience again.
I arrived at the house three hours earlier and throughout that time there were murmured discussions and personal recollections of 'Yer Man'. But as Joey's final journey began, the only audible noise was of people breathing. No one moved or said a word before birds began to sing and sent Joey on his way.
People stood together, 10-deep at either side of the road. Earlier, cars and scores of bikes from all over the world had maintained a steady procession along the route, but in the end hundreds of people were forced to abandon their vehicles and embark the last yards on foot.
The throbbing of motorbike engines provided a constant backdrop, as if a swarm of bees was about to descend upon the area. But the only swarm was of thousands of people - men in sombre funeral coats stood shoulder to shoulder with long-haired bikers bedecked in leather, all with one aim, to pay homage to the king.
And it was wasn't just the public who wanted to convey their respect and admiration. Racing greats of yesteryear such as Geoff Duke, Eddie Leacock, Mick Grant, Brian Reid, Con Law and Tony Robb, joined the new breed of racer, men such as Ballymoney's Adrian Archibald, Phillip McCallen, Richard Britton, Ian Lougher and Ian Simpson, to name but a few.
They just wanted to applaud their hero one more time, as if he was letting it rip at Ballacraine.
Police chiefs appealed for the crowd to take one step back, many of whom were already standing in the hedgerows, but there was no jostling, pushing or arguing, just apologies as toes were trampled upon.
Old and young alike swapped stories about the 'King of the Roads', one man taking the day off work in Belfast just to come along.
"I could have watched it on TV, but felt I needed to be here," he told me, a sentiment that countless thousands could empathise with.
I too shared my memories of the man, of a time long before working in Ballymoney, as a boy who painted the helmet of a toy motorbike racer yellow after seeing Joey at the North West.
Right down to the black stripe and No.3 on the bike, it wasn't Joey but in my dreams it was, as he led Mick Grant going down to Metropole.
But this was a day for dreams and memories. No matter how painful the day was, it was also a testament to Joey's achievements.
"Joey finished the TT as Number One and he'll always be Number One," an English visitor told me.
The number plates on the bikes and cars showed that the Englishman was not alone - Kilkenny and Kerry, Holland and Belgium and machines from all corners of the British Isles all sat beside each other in a line that stretched along the Glenlough Road.
There was a special welcome for Raido Ruutel, vice president of the Estonian Motorcycle Federation, joined by the press officer from the Tallinn track where Joey met his untimely death. Sport in the Baltic state came to a halt for the day, with businesses closing as a mark of respect, similar to Ballymoney where the streets were deserted.
They were joined by Billy Nutt, the man who had the terrible task of relaying the tragic news from Estonia. Television presenters Jackie Fullerton, Mark Robson and Stephen Watson also paid their respects at the house.
Mourners in the early part of the afternoon walked around looking at the wreathes left in the Dunlop garden; wreathes from the Isle of Man and Carl Fogarty.
But of all the floral tributes there were two that brought a lump to the throat - one simply said 'Daddy', the other was in the shape of a yellow helmet. Bikers paid their own mark of respect by sporting the No.3 on their machines.
By 2.00pm people were jammed together, the smell of leather jackets intoxicating, with all eyes fixed on the front door of the Dunlop house.
No one spoke, they watched every move in the hallway before Joey's coffin was brought into the sunlight that briefly glimpsed through the grey skies.
There were quiet sobs, a man fell into his wife's arms for comfort and then there came spontaneous applause breaking the silence. This rippled along the route to Garryduff Presbyterian Church as fans found an outlet for their feelings. They just wanted to applaud their hero one more time, as if he was letting it rip at Ballacraine.
As thousands of people filtered in behind the family, many just stood and shook their heads, while many began a tearful journey home. Each one will take their own memory back with them. In years to come they'll ask 'where were you when Joey died?' but each one of them will always have part of their soul on a quiet country road on the outskirts of Ballymoney.