Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

This blog is devoted to a variety of topics including politics, current events, legal issues, and we even take the time to have some occasional fun. After all, blogging is about having a little fun, right?

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

23 years ago today ...

Twenty-three years ago today we witnessed a disaster that few thought would ever happen. Seven astronauts -- Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, and Christa McAuliffe -- climbed aboard the space shuttle Challenger on another space mission. It was historic because the first "civilian" was going on this mission. Christa McAuliffe was a simple schoolteacher who was excited to be going up with the other astronauts. Seventy-three seconds after lift-off people gasped in horror as the Challenger exploded.

I remember where I was when the shuttle exploded. I was thirteen years old, sitting in my junior high English class, and we were watching it live on TV. Our English teacher had been one of those teachers who had tried to be the teacher to go up on the shuttle. She was very excited to witness this historic event, and we sat there and watched as the shuttle lifted off, then blew up.

There are few things of historical significance that I can remember witnessing. 11 September 2001, the Challenger disaster, the Columbia disaster, and the attempted assassination of President Reagan are the four events that stick out in my mind. I watched each event occur, live on TV. I've always believed that events like these will remain with those who actually witness them. You can learn about anything if you read about it, but to actually witness it in person, that's something that will stick with your forever.

I also remember this from that night:

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "Give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the school children of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.

I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

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 their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

I remember crying after President Reagan's tribute to the challenger Seven, but I knew he was right. We wouldn't be deterred by the disaster. We figured out what went wrong, fixed the problem, and continued with our missions into space. When Columbia disintegrated upon reentry, we found the problem, fixed, and we continue into space today. This was the point of his tribute. We don't quit when disasters occur. We work the problem, and keep pushing forward. Those seven brave souls will always be mourned. We're pretty sure their families dread this day, as much as anyone would dread the anniversary of any disaster. But they wouldn't have quit. They were, literally, the challengers of destiny, willing to take the risks of exploration.

Publius II


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