Forgive me, but I have been terribly shaken today as
expected. I am only able to just now write. I got alerted to the tragedy
this morning with a first call, then 10 minutes later by my best friend who
is an astronaut. He asked if I had heard, and I told him I had. He was in
his truck heading towards NASA. I really lost it emotionally. Not ashamed
nor embarrassed, nor afraid of being any less a man, I grieved until I cried
out everything I had. This was about them, not me. Then, I took a shower,
dressed and also headed for NASA. I was among the first to arrive.
People were numb and in denial and disbelief. News reporters and cameras
were already beginning to arrive and set up. There was an atmosphere of
gloom that prevailed along with the fog and mist that had set in. Driving, I
could barely see more than a couple of blocks ahead of me at any one time.
Others were arriving to share a few moments of grief, then we began to
investigate some plausible explanations to try to determine and pinpoint the
problem. Maybe only God knows why, I don't know.
At this point, without all the data and actual pieces of the wreckage to
examine, we had little to go on. These were friends of mine and everyone
there at NASA. We are one big family, not just scientists, engineers and
astronauts. The families of the astronauts were gathered at Florida awaiting
the arrival of their astronaut 'heroes' who had a very successful mission
and accomplished all their objectives except one: safe return and landing.
They managed to accomplished not only their mission, but their dreams. They
were willing to take the risks to do it for themselves, their families,
their friends, their government and nation...for all the people of this
great country and world.
This was purely a scientific mission with lots of very important experiments
to conduct for the benefit of society and the world at large. One whose
results would ultimately help people. The cafeteria on site opened to allow
employees working there to eat. Their generosity displayed the kindest offer
to eat without paying for the food as an expression of their sympathy.
As I left my office, I walked past the lonely and abandoned, vacated offices
of the astronauts and again, a sad, eerie and gloomy air descended heavily
around the outside of the building. The window panes sweat on the glass of
each office window were like tears running down them. There were flocks of
birds around the premises that were grounded and unable to fly as if they
knew somehow the fate of the crew and their final departure.
I finally made my way to the cafeteria where the locked doors opened for
hungry and grieving mouths. Joining the line was a woman flight controller
whose face and name I did not know. She saw the tears in my eyes and asked
if I was all right. I said, "No." Instantaneously, we hugged each other for
a brief moment, each of us grieving with tears that made a pool on the floor
beneath our feet. She thanked me and said she needed that. It was hard to eat
with an appetite that refused to cooperate.
Lines of public sympathizers began arriving in front of NASA's locked gates
and armed guards. In quiet contrast, they laid flowers, gifts, wreaths and
other trappings on the fences, and on the ground. Strangers stood together
in a unity I have not witnessed since 9-11 incident. Some prayed, some
cried, some just stood in silence as the flags at NASA slowly lowered to
half mast, and the sun hid its head behind the clouds and fog formed in
the heavens above, early in the wee morning hours .
It was a solemn day of appreciated silence, to let the grief's take control,
and also one of reflection. It was a day to be reminded of the preciousness
of life...that each heart beat is a precious gift from God. A reminder that
we should all thank God more often for our gift of life, and the heart beats
bestowed. A day to also remember not to put off telling the ones you love
that you love them. The families of the crew waiting on the ground for them
to arrive, never got that last chance. We should all take the opportunity
while we are alive, while we still have heart beats left. We all take too
much for granted, and let our 'problems' take over and occupy our minds
without letting our hearts be grateful and appreciate the things God does
for each of us, not only every day, but every second.
Today is a day I will never forget along with the Apollo 1 fire on the pad,
the Challenger 7 explosion on launch and the Apollo 13 incident. Although
things broke apart, we recovered from them stronger than before.
Once again, the nation has been motivated by a national tragedy—one in which
we once again, will not fail nor yield to the temptations of defeat. We are
never given to failure, subscribing to the oath and pledge that you only
fail when you give up trying.
It is o.k. to fall down. But failure only occurs when you don't get back up.
If you stay down, you fail. Today, bruised and battered, we got back up!
That's part of the strength and resolve of the NASA family, the American
people and this great nation. That's what makes me proud to be an American!
God help us, we may fall down, but we will never be a people to stay down.
"You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only
decide how you're going to live."
Out under the dark almost star-less sky tonight
I sought to understand the fragility of life
That the line between life and passing is just a breath away
The souls who went on this morning without a hesitation gave their lives for their country,
For progress, for discovering the unknown.
The memory of them lives on...
Their bravery and their willingness to chart new territory.
Sadness is upon the Earth ...
Each of us grieving in our own personal way...
We all hope that their passing was graceful and
Heralded by many angels who drew them into heaven together...
That hopefully they did not experience anything in terms of pain and fear...
That all happened at almost the speed of light.
It's been a long, roller coaster day. . .