The local news had been covering it for weeks.
Giving details of the flight. Scouting the best location. Predicting the weather.
I thought it was nothing more than an interesting novelty.
As the last flight of the Space Shuttle program, Discovery was going to fly over Washington, D.C.
I paused when the government announced they were canceling the Space Shuttle program.
But then I moved on.
I didn’t have any plans to mark the occasion.
In fact, since my son would be in school during the flyover, I wasn’t even expecting to watch it.
I was going to run errands.
Buy dog food. Get groceries. Maybe get a pedicure.
If I had time.
I didn’t even think about it when I dropped my son off at school.
The baby and I left his school, off to see how many places we could visit in two and a half hours.
Our first stop was the pet store.
As I pulled into the parking lot, something low and huge flew into the sky.
It took me a second.
But only one.
There it was.
The space shuttle. Riding on the back of a 747. Escorted by a fighter jet.
It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
From outside the car, I could heard the screams of other patrons.
Screams of surprise and delight.
We weren’t along the advertised path.
None of us were expecting to see it.
But there it was.
Majestic and heroic.
A throwback to a by-gone day.
A reminder of the optimism and patriotism of my youth.
And then, as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
Never to fly again.
When I picked my son up from school, I asked him if he saw the shuttle.
His class was on the playground when it flew over.
“Yes,” he said. “I did.”
And I asked him what it looked like.
“Like an airplane,” he said.
And, today, I suppose it did.
But it meant so much more.
Like everyone of my generation, I grew up watching the shuttles launch.
I saw the fire from their rockets as they hurled toward space, toward the unknown, the inconceivable.
I dreamed, like every child, of riding on one.
I played with model shuttles and ate astronaut ice cream and explored rocks that supposedly originated in outer space.
I tried to fathom the size of the world, based on the pictures sent back from space.
And I remember when two shuttles exploded.
When those courageous lives were lost.
Later today, as I helped my son get ready for his nap, I asked him which pajamas he wanted to wear.
“Rocket ships,” he replied, referencing a pair of footed pajamas covered with spaceships and glow-in-the-dark stars.
And then he continued.
“Mama, when I get bigger, can I fly on a rocket ship?”
Every child dreams of going to space, of flying to the stars.
I hope that never changes.
For the first time in my life, there are no plans for an American manned spaceflight. I don’t know whether that’s the right decision, from the perspective of our government. But I’m sorry my son and daughter won’t grow up seeing other Americans realize their dreams of flying through space.
My apologies to the astronauts and everyone affiliated with the Shuttle Program. This picture doesn’t do it justice.
Linking up with By Word of Mouth Musings for Wordy Wordless Wednesday.