Friday, February 1, 2013

Remembering Columbia -

10 years ago today, I was waiting outside in the brilliant Florida morning sunshine, awaiting the always startling "boom-boom" sounds of the sonic booms to clap in the sky. They were as loud as a shotgun going off next to your ear, and no matter how prepared you thought you were....you still jumped. :) The sonic booms meant the orbiter and her crew were home safe. Breath you didn't know you had been holding for the past few weeks since they left was released in a huge sigh of relief.

It was past 9, and I still hadn't heard anything. I was wandering up and down our street, barefoot, thinking I had gotten the time wrong, when a neighbor kid who I played with (and babysat) was outside on his scooter. He asked if I knew about the shuttle "blowing up", and I quickly corrected him "going up", and "it's not going up, it's coming home today". And then he told me "no. come see.". I followed him into their house, and sank down on the couch next to his mom.

I stared at the screen as it played live footage of burning pieces tumbling and falling from 203,000 feet into the Texas sky. It was happening in realtime, because TV cameras were set up to watch it fly over on her way to FL to land. I asked "What happened? What is that?", and she tearfully told me it was the Columbia. In pieces. I will never forget that terrible, rushing feeling of pain and helplessness as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing, and praying they could survive that, even though I knew they never could. She and I cried on the couch together for a few minutes, and then I knew I had the task of going and telling my family.

I crossed the street, and kept looking at the sky, knowing she wasn't coming home today.

I was 14, and the memory of me walking in our door, and choking out the news to them still gives me chills. The look on my Dad's face, and his tears as we prayed in the living room as a family still remains with me and always will. As NASA people, we felt we had lost family that day.

10 years later.....I still feel it. Those are terrible memories.

This is a sad banner to look at. It represents the Nacogdoches Columbia Recovery Team. They worked so hard, as they picked up more than 70,000 pieces of the orbiter that fell over miles and miles of land.


These photos are from the Astronaut Memorial at KSC Visitor's Center.

"Whenever mankind has sought to conquer new frontiers, there have been those who have given their lives for the cause. This Astronauts Memorial, dedicated May 9,1991, is a tribute to American men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice believing the conquest of Space is worth the risk of life."


The plaque honoring all who have died during their mission and in their love of Space exploration.


The Columbia Wall. Mission STS-107. 


For NASA, it still hits very close to home. To hearts. I've had many conversations with NASA workers, their families, and in particular, a member of the white room/ closeout team who knew several of them personally. The conversations always end up in tears. Man or woman. It was a hard loss. I still can't listen to the audio tape of the last few minutes.
It still breaks my heart.

The news reports, the constant newspaper articles, and photos and ceremonies and flags at half mast....and my overwhelmed journal entry that day still remind me of what being 14 and a young American was like. It reminds me of how much I love space and NASA and desire to see a program succeed and thrive and be supported by our nation. I pray that we will keep exploring and soaring. Keep on doing what they loved so much!!

I continue to pray for their families, and all who loved them, and pray that God would draw them to Him, and be as real to them as space was to their families when they flew above our skies.
Please join me in remembering, and in praying the same.
 If you have a memory, please feel free to share it in the comments below!

With much love,
~ Jean Marie ~

This was my 600th post! It is very fitting to have it be such a huge memory from growing up.

No comments: