Remembering, and Hoping Not to Forget

Remembering. And Hoping Not to Forget.

posted in Blog, Poetry & Writing | Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Twenty-six years ago today (nearly half my life ago), I was in Palm Beach Gardens counting down the minutes until 11:38 am – liftoff for the space shuttle, Challenger. A group of us gathered that brisk morning under a cloudless canopy with high hopes and great visibility. Without a working radio we relied on our watches for the “T minus three… two…one”. I stood next to my father on the patio of the office where I worked and watched the sky as seven astronauts made the violent transition from one world to another.

From anticipation to excitement to gut wrenching concern to the numbness of shock. There was a heaviness in my chest and I felt slightly weak. Dad said he felt weak all over and that it was the same feeling he had when President Kennedy was shot and killed in the early 60’s.

A couple decades later I would stand next to the astronauts’ graves in Arlington National Cemetery. A strange feeling. A sense of personal connection. Twenty-one years and change had passed. Thousands and thousands of days. Each day here a gift – a precious opportunity. How was I using my days?

Whether one dies at two or a hundred-and-two, this phase of life is brief. A year ago this month my friend Becka Mullenix died unexpectedly. She went into the hospital for a kidney stone. A kidney stone … like I went to the hospital for a few months ago. But something went wrong then. And now Becka’s gone. I don’t know where the astronauts are but I do know where Becka is, and I do know that I’ll be joining her one day. Until then I sincerely hope that I will not waste my days in apathy and unthankfulness, but will treat the gift of life as the valuable gift it is and honor the Giver of Life (both now and forever) as the awesome, holy God that He is.

About a week ago I came across an old journal where I had recorded the events and emotions of that tragic Tuesday in 1986. I reread how the sight of the explosion had continued to flash through my mind that day. The journal entry ended with a poem I penned that afternoon and evening, processing what I remembered, and hopefully would not forget.


Expectantly we checked the time
It seemed there would be no delay
A shuttle launch just shy of noon
The Challenger would fly today

A picture perfect day for flight
An icy breeze and clear blue skies
Coats clinched against the chilly air
Excitedly we watched her rise

Amazement on our faces shown
The awesomeness of unleashed pow’r
A hundred-fifty miles away
The tail of fire, the vapor tow’r

We saw the smoke, we heard no sound
Two weaving marks like chalky lines
Two licking flames instead of one
A different chill ran down our spines

The flames went out, the vapors ceased
No climbing object left in sight
Something obviously amiss
Something surely not quite right

TV reception on the fritz
Radio in disrepair
Left with just a haunting guess
Of what had happened in the air

We left and walked toward the car
While in our minds the questions tossed
The radio supplied the news
The ship blew up, all lives were lost

From heights of joy to depths of grief
Emotions rose and sharply fell
Seven gone in in one quick sweep
To face the walls of Heaven or Hell

And beauty’s beaten by the beast
And death still has a bitter sting
And even earthly heroes die
The grace of God is everything


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