SW: luke personalized

...to touch the face of God

Twenty-two years ago today I was in junior high, preparing for my band sectional (I played baritone), when the vice-principal asked that everyone turn on their television sets for some important news. It took a few moments for the set to warm-up, but when it did, a nameless, faceless voice pronounced in cold, machine-like tones four words that would shake me to the core.

"Go at throttle up."

Not a heartbeat later, the space-shuttle Challenger and its seven member crew were gone in a sudden burst of smoke, flame and debris.

School teacher Christa McAuliffle was going to be the first civilian in space, and would teach classes to students across the nation from Challenger. My school was not participating in that program, which I found a bit unfair at the time. Space Shuttle launches were nearing the routine, but as a wide-eyed kid, I would always be interested in the space program, whether I'd get a chance to participate or not. Watching a space shuttle launch should be on a list of things-to-do-before-you-die, or so I've heard.

I stood there in the expansive music room staring at the television in shock for several minutes before realizing my instructor and the other baritones had moved into one of the quite rooms where we could rehearse without interruption. I was almost as stunned by that as I was of the explosion. How could they? How could anybody continue their normal day when something like this happened?

President Reagan was scheduled to give his State of the Union address that night, but pushed it back a week, deciding to give some words of comfort to a heart-broken nation with a statement that ended with a quote from John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s poem, "High Flight."

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and `slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to `touch the face of God.'
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I was a small child when it happened but I do remember it vaguely.

The poem is very sad & beautiful.