kls_eloise (kls_eloise) wrote,

They slipped the surly bonds of earth...

Thirty years ago I was sitting in chemistry class, when Mr. Pratt came on the public address system and announced to the school that Challenger had exploded on liftoff.  I don't really remember my reaction, but I remember Mr. Byrd in tears.  Unlike his wet-behind-the-ears students, he, of course, remembered the space race.  It hit him harder.  But it's one of my two "where were you" memories.  Seeing your teacher cry in class is an experience most people get through high school without.

Of course, it was all over the news when I got home.  Over, and over, and over.  Until the very last launch, I cringed every time they said "Go with throttle up."

Fairly recently I saw an interview with Peggy Noonan, one of Reagan's speech-writers - the one who wrote the statement the President read that night.  Reagan originally didn't want to use the Magee line - I guess he thought it was too sappy and fake, but Noonan insisted that it was right.  And so it, and she, was.  I had loved that poem for years, and it was oh, so appropriate - and now forever linked to Challenger in my mind.  It had always brought me to tears even before the explosion, so at least that was nothing new.

In many ways, I feel like we never really got over the Challenger explosion.  Columbia was the nail in the coffin of our national nerve for the space program.  In our bubble wrapped world, we have demanded that *everything* be safe - and that just cannot be.  I freely admit that I have always despised the Kennedys, with their elitism and entitlement and teflon, but I cannot disagree with JFK's statement about going to the moon:

"and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

I would like to take a moment today to hope that someday we can remember that some things that are worth doing, carry risk - but they are worth doing desite - perhaps because of - the risk.  I hope that someday we can do the hard things again.

And godspeed to all of those who over the years have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and touched the face of God.  For so long as we remember, they are not gone.
Tags: reminiscences

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