Wow. Has it really been fifteen years? Hard to believe. As I sit here doing my nightly ritual of viewing and reading the LPAssociation forums, much like I have done for the last 14 years of the site's existence, I find myself both astonished it's been this long, and overcome with the warmest feeling of nostalgia. You know that feeling. The beautiful, heart-warming euphoria you get when you remember a fun moment from your childhood, whether it be by sight, smell or sound...that brings you right back to how you felt when that moment took place. For me it was the middle of my 8th grade junior high school year (age 15-16) that lead me to my first true experience with Linkin Park. I had mostly been into rap at the time (Dr.Dre, Snoop Dogg, Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, Eminem, Nas, Atmosphere etc), and looked at the fire engine red haired, chain wearing, Slipknot/Mudvayne loving kids with confusion. I had little to no experience in the 'hard rock' or 'nu-metal' scene and had no idea how much I would soon come to identify with the crowd and consider many of those kids to my best and closest friends. It was during our morning school announcements where I first heard the infamous bridge that would come to be one of the band's most well known and often quoted lyrics: the simplistic, angry, yet potent yell of "shut up! shut up! shut up when I'm talking to you!" that soon launched headfirst into the song's catchy and memorable chorus. My school's audio/visual group had pulled a prank on the school principal, dubbing One Step Closer over images of the principal wagging his finger at the camera, looking more like an angry grandpa shouting for kids to get off of his lawn than our junior high principal. I'll admit, I laughed. It was clever, it was smart ass, was probably going to get them suspended but more-so...the music choice was for lack of a better term: fucking awesome! Impressed, and left wanting more from the 30 seconds I heard, I turned around to one of those kids I mentioned earlier and asked what band that was over the loudspeakers. "LINKIN PARK" "LINCOLN PARK? Got it!". "No dude, L-I-N-K-I-N.". Scribbling down the correct spelling I ran home as quick as I could, typing the band's name in the Yahoo! search engine, clicking on the first link I saw. [thumb]http://www.lpassociation.com/upload/images/092915-010548_OSCIMG2b.jpg[/thumb] A black flash website with a red letterbox came into view, the sounds of marching and a loud explosion giving away to a frantically played acoustic guitar, rapid flashes of band photos, words, and album art leading to the image of a red winged soldier flanked by the word "ENTER" in bold white, inviting you to continue onwards. Finding myself inside the band's awesomely designed (for the time) official website, I navigated to the Music section, where further previews of the band's music would await me in the form of mp3 downloads (With You, Points of Authority and My December). This small taste would prove to be all I needed to convince me to rush out and purchase the album, and that same day I pushed my dad to take me to Best Buy and I ran in and bought the album with my weekly allowance. It would prove to be one of the most life altering decisions I would ever make. In the weeks that followed I became completely obsessed with the band, playing the record on repeat non-stop, annoying my family and my neighbors in the process. I signed up to The Linkin Park Message Board (RIP old LPMB), and became best friends with many of the forum's inhabitants, developing some friendships that still last to this day. One of those would prove to be fate, when I ran into LPA's original founder and designer Omar. It is actually by sheer coincidence that me and Omar even met, as it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Omar was in desperate need of someone to help convert a bmp file to png (as he was on a different computer than usual and didn’t have access to Photoshop), and seeing his post on Official Linkin Park Message Board; I volunteered to lend my services, unaware of how great a friends we would end up becoming. I had briefly ran fansites for Tomb Raider and other associated topics, but a music fansite was a first for me and when Omar offered for me to come on board I accepted immediately. To this date, because of the friends and experiences this site has brought me, I still consider it one of the best choices I’ve ever made. As we first launched the website, I'll admit it was absolutely nothing like the site you see today. Hosted on a crappy angelfire server, the site consisted of an image gallery, lyrics, tab, fan, articles and downloads section. [thumb]http://www.lpassociation.com/gallery/d/25773-2/LPA1+Homepage.jpg[/thumb] It was absolutely barren in comparison to our current website, but to me and Omar at the time it was our proudest achievement. We had made a website that was both pretty to look at and full of great content. It was done completely flash (a rarity for the time), and it was the shit. And anybody who thought otherwise was welcome to kiss our ass. We were proud, and for good reason: between the two of us we had a big history of never completing web projects, but finally we created something amazing and beautiful in this. This was our baby (I still want my child support Omar!) and we couldn't be prouder. Now 15 years later, it's kind of a head spinner to contemplate where the band (and I) have gone in the last decade and a half. For Linkin Park they've gone from starstruck newcomers, stunned by their fame and overwhelmed by their meteoric rise, to veritable superstars...blessed with multiple platinum records, music awards and accolades that some of their harshest and rudest critics would've never deemed possible when One Step Closer premiered all this time ago. For LPA, and myself I saw the website grow into a juggernaut, amassing more than 160 million hits a year (or over a billion since launch), gathering mentions in magazines, band interviews, and most importantly: giving me the friendships, and the confidence I would've never knew of the meaning of if it wasn't for the band or their music. Truth be told, much has been written by me about LPA's story and how it came to be. I've expounded on the subject more times than I can count, and for some long time LPA viewers and visitors, the above story is all too familiar. But one thing I've never done so openly, or through as public a platform as LPA's front page is say "thank you" to the band. Over the past two years since AltWire has been open, I've had several opportunities or chances to really tell the band what I think (during interviews) but I've always chosen to focus on business first, never truly stating how I feel. So I'll say it now: Thank you Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Dave Farrell, Joseph Hahn, Rob Bourden and Brad Delson for all of the amazing friendships your music has brought me these last fifteen years. For the confidence, and positive self image this website and your acknowledgements of this site have brought me. Thank you for always seeming to know exactly the right words I needed to hear in your music, for providing a source of inspiration in my own music and for giving me strength for when I was looking for it the most. For being the voice I didn't have, and for every single thing you've done both for your fans and for myself personally since the LPA launched so long ago. Many of us fans cannot imagine how differently our lives would have been lived without the experiences and opportunities your music has given us, and I believe I speak for everyone who's ever popped Hybrid Theory in their CD player when I say: thank you for making one of the best albums of our generation. Your ability to stay in the game for so long is no accident, and I know I'll be listening to One Step Closer, and Hybrid Theory for another fifteen years to come (and maybe more). Thank you Linkin Park.