Friday, January 28, 2011

Surley Bonds of Earth

Twenty five years ago, at this time of the day, the Challenger blew up off the coast of Florida.  As a high school senior, just a few months from leaving South Georgia for Athens, it was a horrific moment. 

I've always been a space buff.  If I had decent eyesight, aptitude at math and science, a devotion to physical fitness, and didn't projectile vomit after riding the teacup at the fair, I'd be an astronaut.  The concept of going into space has long held a romatic allure to me.  In the early to middle 80's, after a number of years of eschewing space, America was back at it.  With plane that made going into space seem as simple and safe as flying a turboprop from Waycross to Atlanta.  Space Shuttle launches had become so routine that they didn't even show them live anymore, by 1986, at least not on all channels.  Seemed "The Price is Right" is more exciting than going to space.  Only CNN was carrying the Challenger launch live.

So watching CNN in the library while I was 'working' on an independent project was my only recourse.  I was the only one watching in the school.  I remember saying "Oh, God" only to be admonished to be quiet.  I promptly went to the principal's office to tell him what had happened.  In that time, I happened to run into Jimmy Crackedcorndawg, who was doing something journalistic, I'm sure.  Our principal made an announcement.  Seems space flight was still very not safe.

Jimmy and I decided to lower the flag to half-mast.  That will be my lasting memory of the Challenger disaster.  The flag at half-mast outside the high school, being cold, but not caring.  Staring at the sky and wondering if this is what it felt like to be an adult. 

Much has changed in those 25 years.  I live nearly 1000 miles from there.  I still stare at the sky and wonder if this is what it feels like to be an adult.

High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment