It is hard to believe it has been 30 years since that fateful day. I was in high school then and will always remember my brother saying on our way home, ‘the space shuttle blew up’, and then our family sitting and watching the news that afternoon and evening.
Seven of America’s best and brightest men and women died that day in what was truly a national tragedy. That night, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation and in closing paraphrased a poem by American aviator John Gillespie Magee, Jr. The words of ‘High Flight’ were most fitting that day:
“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 wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
– Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”