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Shuttle Down

No doubt you’ve already heard that the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas during re-entry this morning.  NASA’s Web server is currently offline due to excessive load.  The original CNN report of the problem ends on a horribly tragic note.

I remember when Challenger was lost, 17 years ago this past week.  I was a sophomore in high school, walking from lunch to my first afternoon class with my friend Dave when his father (a teacher at the school) stopped us in the hall and said, “Did you guys hear the Shuttle blew up?”  I didn’t believe him at first; I think the first words out of my mouth were, “Ha ha, very funny,” even though as I uttered them I knew he wasn’t kidding.  It was a reflex action, an emotional spasm, divorced from anything else.

I actually own a copy of the report of the Presidential Commission on the Challenger accident.  I don’t know what that means.

NPR just reported that Colonel Ilan Ramon, the Israeli crew member, was one of the pilots who attacked an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.  There is a tiny, tiny part of me that’s glad that this accident happened at an altitude 200,000 feet instead of a lower altitude, one where people might have asserted it must have been a terrorist missile attack against the Shuttle and its Israeli crew member.  There’s a larger part of me that is dismayed that our world is such that it was one of my first thoughts.

As I watched the video of the multiple debris trails of Columbia slowly etching the Texas sky, I couldn’t help but wonder why America’s national tragedies keep coming on perfectly clear blue mornings.

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February 2003
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