Thursday, October 14, 2010

To astronauts and miners

Why is it that the news stories we remember, the one that shape us and our youth are mostly stories of sadness—of death, of destruction? For my parents, it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. For the high school students I sometimes teach it is the falling of two towers on a sunny day in September.
I still remember sitting on the hard carpeted floor of my elementary school, watching a TV strapped to a rolling cart. We’d all gathered in a common area, the place we called “the pod” to watch Christa McAuliffe become the first American teacher in space. We watched as the Challenger Shuttle took off and then exploded in the bluest sky I’ve ever seen. I don’t need a picture to remember what the explosion looked like: a trail of white that bulged at the top and then split in two directions. We’d watched the launch live and we sat there, staring at the screen until someone—a teacher—turned it off. We didn’t talk. We knew that they were gone—those people on board. They’d just been smiling at us.

They’d been waving.

My oldest daughter was only a year and half on September 11th. Although she’s seen footage and knows about what happened that day, she doesn’t understand it. It may shape the world she lives in and the policy and political decisions of her generation, but it’s not a day that’s hers.

I’m glad that the news story that marks her, that first affected her, the one where she began to see the world differently, was a day when 33 miners rose one by one after 69 days underground. I’m glad that hers is a story of hope. A triumph.

My 10-year old daughter watched all she could of the Chilean mine rescue. She called me asking me for updates on her way to and from school. She knew and understood that there were more than just miners down there, underground. That paramedics and rescue workers had gone down too. She had questions and she had empathy. She wanted to watch every moment, but there was homework to do, piano to practice, a room to clean.

“Let her watch,” I told my husband.

I sat next to her. We watched as the last miner climbed out of something that NASA helped to build. It looked remarkably similar to a space shuttle, like a small, wire rocket.

It rose out of the ground. I heard cheers and there were smiles. Then the door opened.

And there was waving.


Heather said...

love this post

Chelsie said...

It's good that she will always feel hope as she remembers that event. When I think of the events that shaped me I think of the Columbine shooting and 9-11. Neither of them had a happy ending. It is nice to see that some of them do have happy endings. Thanks for writing about this DeAnn.

Camille said...

That is one of my most vivid memories from my childhood also, although we had the opposite happen. Our teacher was listening to it on the radio and after he heard that it exploded, then he gathered us together and turned on the tv.

Mer said...

Thanks for doing such a great job of articulating that memory that I have too - we were probably sitting in the same "pod".

One Woman's Thoughts said...

There is great tragedy in the world and we are bound to remember the profound shock and pain that they cause us. And as you said, every generation has something. Every person had an experience, a rememberance. Sadly, it is part of life, hurt and pain and grief. So we must talk about it, share it, understand it and not forget it. It reminds us that we live in a world of opposites.
We must not forget that there is also much accomplished in the world, much happiness, much joy, much laughter and much love.

A thoughtful and meaningful post.