One of the things that stuck in my mind growing up was the Challenger explosion. The idea that seven people willingly took such a risk to do something amazing impressed me greatly, and certainly made me idolize astronauts.
Below is a column I put together for Sunday's Tribune that explains that a little bit, with a 'Learn to Dad' twist.
As a new dad (young Joshua Johnson will be 3 months old this week) there are a lot fun-yet-risky activities that have lost much of their appeal to me. I won't be buying a motorcycle anytime soon and my average speed on the highway has probably dropped 10 miles per hour.
But if I had been given a chance to join the four astronauts on the last Space Shuttle trip that launched Friday, it would have been a mighty struggle to say no.
Call me a nerd, but if I had the choice of hanging out with any Hollywood A-lister and an unknown astronaut, I would pick the astronaut every time.
The Challenger disaster impacted me in a number of ways, and seeing Atlantis liftoff put me into a reflective mood.
Photos of the shuttle explosion in 1986 were everywhere, and I remember poring over memorial magazines with profiles of teacher Christa McAuliffe and the other six souls that were lost. I was 9 years old, and somewhere in my brain, the seeds of a journalism career took hold.
Things as vague as poetry even began to make sense, with the words of John Magee's "High Flight" overlaid on full-page color picture of the explosion, with the shuttle's signature solid rocket boosters twisting off in wild trails of smoke.
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings."
The 19-year-old Magee wrote his poem just months before he died in an accident while piloting a Spitfire fighter plane over England in 1941. He was an American citizen, but he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force to fly before the United States entered World War II.
All that brings me back to parenting.
With our lives marked so deeply by singular momentous events, I can't help but wonder what happening or moment will etch into the psyche of my son. How much "parent filtering" should be applied to the news of the day as he grow up?
I certainly don't have the answer to that yet, but I do know that I want help him develop the courage and dedication of someone like Magee or an astronaut.
Magee finished with these lines...
"And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
I did get to see Space Shuttles fly in two very different ways over the years and it was a thrill each time. (like I said, i'm a geek, and that is OK)
First was a launch that I watched from a balcony of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando. Even from a distance of almost 60 miles it was awe inspiring.
In 2008, Endeavour had to fly cross-country on the back of a 747, and I made my way to see it take off from Fort Worth.
So, it is sad to see an old friend fade away, but it will be interesting to see what we get into next as we seek to "touch the face of God."
Have a great weekend everybody.