This is the time of year we in Clear Lake remember the sad anniversaries of three manned space flight disasters:
- Apollo 1 Fire: January 27, 1967
- Challenger Shuttle Disaster: January 28, 1986
- Columbia Shuttle Disaster: February 1, 2003
The Apollo 1 tragedy occurred before I was born, when I was but a speck of dust floating around in the skies.
I was a junior in high school, standing in the lunch line, when I learned that Challenger blew up. We felt bad for the elementary school kids who had gathered to watch the launch on tv, to see the first teacher go to space.
When Columbia fell apart over Texas, I was at home with my one-year-old, ironing. My husband was running errands and I broke the terrible news to him the moment he got home. For years he had worked at NASA, programming the shuttle simulator used to train the astronauts.
Standing in line. Ironing. Running errands. These ordinary activities of an ordinary day stand out against the tragedies that befell the skies.
I thought of this yesterday when my sister and I went for a bird walk at Challenger Seven Memorial Park.
It was an ordinary winter day in Houston: sunny and cool, windy with a clear blue sky. The park was filled with people enjoying the outdoors. Some pavilions and playgrounds were roped off because of the pandemic. But families found ways to gather in small groups: visiting at picnic tables and park benches, fishing, biking, or, like us, birding.
Except for one orange-crowned warbler, all the birds we saw were quite ordinary, but there were a lot of them.
It was all so full of life. It made me extraordinarily grateful for the ordinary things that keep us grounded even as we yearn for the stars.
For further reading: “After Ten Years,” a blog series by Wayne Hale, a local NASA retiree. Hale’s first day as a shuttle flight director was the same day as the Columbia Space Shuttle accident.
Bird list from Challenger 7 Memorial Park, Sunday, January 31, 2021L
- Yellow-rumped warblers
- American robins
- American crows
- Black vultures
- Great egrets
- Snowy egrets
- Red-winged blackbirds
- Orange-crowned warbler