In Honor of the Fallen

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger’s final ascent into the heavens. With her, she took Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael Smith and Ellison Onizuka on their final flight. 73 seconds into the launch, an O-ring on one of the solid rocket boosters failed, causing an explosion that destroyed the shuttle.

To those who have served in the space program, I thank you. To those who have lost loved ones to the space program disasters, I thank you for sharing your family, your friend, with us who have so much to gain from the furthering of science and education.

These 7 died in a tragic accident that sure, probably could have been avoided. But in their memory, children from around the country–probably from around the world–have taken up the mantle and have made their career choices early on. Astronauts. Scientists. Doctors. Discoverers. Some of the children who sat in classrooms 25 years ago are the pioneers into new fields of study that weren’t even around in the mid-80s. It’s possible–probable–that those children derived part of their fire and desire from “the seven.”

In honor of the fallen, I choose to remember the shuttle program with this offering from the band Rush, who were privilegdged enough to be in attendance at the first launch. Read the words. Feel them. This was the inaugural flight into a whole new era of education and understanding of space.

Here are the lyrics.

Lit up with anticipation
We arrive at the launching site
The sky is still dark, nearing dawn
On the Florida coastline

Circling choppers slash the night
With roving searchlight beams
This magic day when super-science
Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams

Floodlit in the hazy distance
The star of this unearthly show
Venting vapours, like the breath
Of a sleeping white dragon

Crackling speakers, voices tense
Resume the final count
All systems check, T minus nine
As the sun and the drama start to mount

The air is charged
A humid, motionless mass
The crowds and the cameras
The cars full of spectators pass
Excitement so thick you could cut it with a knife
Technology…high, on the leading edge of life

The earth beneath us starts to tremble
With the spreading of a low black cloud
A thunderous roar shakes the air
Like the whole world exploding

Scorching blast of golden fire
As it slowly leaves the ground
Tears away with a mighty force
The air is shattered by the awesome sound

Like a pillar of cloud
The smoke lingers high in the air
In fascination
With the eyes of the world
We stare…

¬†Again, a million thank yous to “the seven.” And to EVERYONE who stands up for education, science, and the determination to learn from the past and look to the future.

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