Saturday, February 01, 2003


Astronauts Die As Shuttle Breaks Apart

I didn't know until Kim mentioned it in e-mail this afternoon. Ah, no. Ah, no.

I haven't turned on the TV in about 2 weeks -- work's been busy -- and I'm not going to today. But I also need to see this, to see proof that this really happened. That, for Columbia, somewhere between points A and B, a disaster occurred. Disaster -- an ill-omened star, indeed.

I remember when Challenger exploded in 1986. I sat in the teacher's lounge with all the teachers who could get away from their classes, and the other students like myself, sent by those who couldn't. And together we watched the footage, great white plumes of smoke arcing like the fronds of some terrible plant, drooping downwards from where, moments before, living humans had been.

Like so many of us watched, together in 2001, when human lives were ended abruptly by jet fuel, concrete and the impacts flesh does not survive. I didn't believe it when I heard it on the radio. I didn't believe it until I saw the WTC, a plane, and fire, and a little later, when a tiny black dot fell from a great height, I said to myself, "I just watched a human being die. I just watched a life go out. I just watched the only gift we ever get, taken away."

That essence of potential in all of us, that possiblity one person represents, is precious, not like a diamond, but fragile and unique and irreplaceable. Like a snowflake.

Human lives are ended abruptly every day, some with a bang, some with a whimper, some even with a sigh of relief. But it's always a tragedy.

No comments: