[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
here's to the dreamers
i am a child of the 80s. i remember it as a decade that, at the time, seemed golden in its riches.
i remember january 28th, 1986.
it was cold. snow covered the ground. the sky was brilliant and blue and clear.
that day, televisions were set up in central locations at my high school – the library, the cafeteria. many teachers, of course, were anxious to watch as one of their own made history as the first civilian to travel into space.
i remember the words.
“roger. throttle up.”
it was so quiet.
it took moments to comprehend. to sink in. something was wrong. terribly wrong.
i remember being transfixed by the image. i forced myself to look away, ashamed by the fact that i found it so beautiful. that clear, brilliant, shockingly blue sky. the deep frothy pillows of white. the two snaking arms, streaked with blazing orange.
the generation that came before me lost its innocence in dealey plaza. in the flickering glow of the television as it brought the mekong delta into their living rooms. it was the first time that generation came face to face with the idea that our country was not invincible. many say the challenger tragedy was that moment for my generation. i don’t know. but i know that something changed that day.
we felt the loss of these seven people. and the loss of our sense of bravado and naivete which had somehow found its way back into our national personality.
i remember thinking what it must have been like. the idea of experiencing that supreme joy. of living a moment you had always dreamed of. to have chased that dream and actually caught it. as tragic as their deaths were, how amazing that moment must have been for them. to have reached for the stars and had them in their grasp, even if only for a moment.
one of the members of the columbia crew, mission specialist david brown, was a native of the dc area. his father spoke to a local newscaster about his son.
“as much as i will miss him, i take comfort in knowing that he died doing what he always wanted to do. he died living his dream. how many people can say that?”
the image of the challenger explosion is as clear in my memory today as it was on the television in my high school library on that cold morning some seventeen years ago. but, perhaps even more resonant are the words penned by the singular peggy noonan and spoken by ronald reagan. reagan was to have delivered the state of the union address that night. but, instead he delivered one of the most memorable speeches in modern history. it was more than a speech. it was a salve for a grieving nation. it was beauty. it was poetry. no jingoistic platitudes. no opportunistic nationalism. it was the kind of moment, the kind of speech, that is all too rare in these times. i do not know anyone who experienced the challenger tragedy who does not recall the final lines of reagan’s address that night:
“the crew of the space shuttle challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. we will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of god."
in december 1941, pilot officer john magee, a 19-year-old american serving with the royal canadian air force in england, was killed when his spitfire collided with another airplane inside a cloud. several months before his death, he composed a now-immortal poem, high flight. it was magee’s words that noonan borrowed for that speech.
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, or even eagle flew.
and, while with silent, lifting mind i've trod
the high untresspassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand, and touched the face of god.
this weekend's tragedy brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from thoreau.
“go confidently in the direction of your dreams! live the life you’ve always imagined.”
and so they did.
and we are all a little closer to the stars for their having reached.
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