GO WITH GOD……………..

The last time I touched this keyboard, it was 8:00 a.m. and I had just blew by an Associated Press wire story that said NASA had lost contact with Space Shuttle Columbia. No big deal to me, and I SCOUR the news wires like a sucker fish does his feeding on the side of a tank. Nope, no biggie, I was off to brush my teeth, get a cup of coffee and make some toast with peanut butter. I had sent an AOL instant message to Howard Owens because his website was down — the story of the loss of communication just didn’t register………….a few minutes later I called a colleague at the newspaper I work for to make sure the Saturday morning crew was doing and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of the TV in “that mode” again.

The AP story didn’t set off any bells because I had not been following this shuttle trip this week any more than I would have followed the path of Sheep in Ireland to market this week. And that even though my own parents were in Florida and went to the launch of this mission for the Columbia.

You never know when things are going to happen.

That may sound a trite comment given the enormity of today’s news, but think about it some more. Relate that thought to your own life and it will grow ever more resoundingly important. I didn’t expect XXXX XXXX and certainly thought I would never hear today that XXXX XXXX and yet on we go.

My day after hearing the news consisted of first calling my family to be sure they knew what had happened. Did you do the same?? Why is that, do you suppose??? I reached my brother-in-law on his cellphones. Later my sister left a voicemail to thank me for calling them to let them know and said something nice to encourage my wife in her studies. Maybe it’s just about hearing the voices of family and knowing that You Never Know When Things Are Going To Happen.

Next, I began coordinating contingency planning all day for the production of tomorrow’s Detroit News and Free Press combined Sunday edition and a possible EXTRA edition for Saturday afternoon (didn’t happen). We told our staff that there was an “emergency” and that they couldn’t leave until we figured out if they’d be needed for overtime to put out special editions or not. Sometimes when you walk into work, you never know when things are going to happen. They eventually left at their scheduled time, but we did increase the size of tomorrow’s and Monday’s papers.

Then, even though the work thing was not fully under control, it was time to follow through with the plans my wife and I had to get a workout in before attending a scheduled wedding. We went, did both and at the gym I forgot to bring my clothes in and on the way out followed a woman and a tiny toddler holding her hand who was just walking and having a ball moving with her mother in such a fashion. I smiled at the little girl as I went by and said something to encourage her….didn’t see her mother’s face at all. Turns out it was a former colleague who had moved to Italy with her husband several years ago and was now back. Guess you never know when things are going to happen.

It is 10 pm now, I am home from the wedding. After a day of watching, coordinating and listening to non-stop coverage of today’s “only” news, I have nothing profound to offer in terms of expressing grief about the loss of a space shuttle.

And I have to admit that while I abhor the fact that human life was lost, I have to honestly say that my emotional reaction is pretty much the same as hearing the news about military losses due to helicopter crashes and attacks in Afghanistan recently. While sad, my brain asks me, “Why should American be any different?” Why are we so surprised when deaths come as a result of such a risk-laden space exploration program and not surprised by 10-car pileups in a fog or avalanches etc….Why should you be any different?

Did you know that there was another avalanche in Revelstroke BC that killed six people today?

National Story – canada.com network The victims may have belonged to a high school group from Alberta, said Pam Doyle, superintendent for Parks Canada in Revelstoke.

It was the second major slide in the area in a month.

Seven people in a party of 21 back-country skiers died in a Jan. 20 avalanche on Durrand Glacier. A memorial service for the victims was held just Friday in a Revelstoke church.

Perhaps it is the spectacular nature of explosion in flight that causes us to think these people died in a horrible way. Perhaps it is that they are heroes to us, common people fulfilling a dream we all had and then having it end in a nightmare we’ve all had, too.

Last night, I had troubling dreams. This does not happen often. But last night, I dreamed that one of my best friends who now lives in Grand Rapids was after me with a gun and wanted to shoot me dead. I found myself in ghetto-like homes, hiding and moving from room to room. I would wake up only to return to the same dream when I fell back to sleep, this time in a different place, but with the same thing happening. But it was a harmless nightmare.

The families of the heroes on the Space Shuttle will now live nightmares that will not leave them. However, I know they are proud of their brothers, sons, etc., because these space travellers knew the risk and died doing what they love while serving the country. That does not supplant grief, but there was honor in these deaths.

I saw a glimpse of one tremendously strong woman, the mother of one of the shuttle crew members who said “He wanted to go into space so badly that if he had never been able to, his life would have been full. He died doing something that he loved so much and for that I am proud.” That is strength in times of tragedy.

What else is there to say tonight?

One other observation…….I have been checking weblogs from others chosen at random by my hosting link. Although the large majority of bloggers are young people from their late teens to college years who use this format as on-line diaries about their life, none I saw mentioned their feelings about what happened today or even acknowledged the news. That’s not a negative comment, just an observation. I’m sure there are plenty that are or will. But could it be that we are in such an intense news cycle since 9-11 and through the sniper shootings, Iraq war preparations etc., that we are ALL becoming more numb to such tragic events as today???

I did find a side-by-side comparison of President George Bush’s speech today with President Ronald Reagan’s speach after the Challenger explosion in 1986….click on the link for the side-by-side. But read below from Bush’s remarks what I think is the important perspective for us to have…………

Speech on The Columbia Disaster George W In the skies today, we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see, there is comfort and hope.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.

Below, too, are a couple of images of the National Weather Service radar maps that picked up the heat and intensity of the debris field as it occurred and then spread. Another interesting frame of reference on this tragic event.

I hope mine from tonight was worth reading. You never know when something is going to happen — live each moment in love and be blessed for what it brings.

Click the link to The New York Times for animated radar…….

The New York Times

Hours later, Doppler weather radar images from the National Weather Service in Shreveport, La., show the aftermath of the breakup of the shuttle Columbia. These images show the reflectivity, or size and density, of particles near the ground. The shuttle broke up near Tyler, Texas but winds pushed the particles east as the day progressed. The green cloud around Shreveport is normal ground clutter picked up by the radar.

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