I have always grumbled at the fact that NASA wants to group three very distinct tragedies into one Day of Remembrance. Today was the first time I had been to the Astronaut Memorial Grove for an event. And most certainly the first time I had been there since Columbia. As I drove in the gates at NASA, I saw a small gate by the badging office open. I simply thought, oh how nice & convenient. I parked and walked towards the grove. There were three wreaths placed central to their respective crewmembers. As I got closer to the Apollo 1 wreath, I realized there were family and friends in attendance. A lot of effort is put into this Day of Remembrance by NASA to honor the fallen astronauts and comfort the family - blood and the NASA family. I realize Day of Remembrance is the best approach after all.
I stayed back and let families and close friends pay respects. As they would move on, I would follow and pay mine... watching the time so as to be ready for the flyover. Then it covered me up as I was waiting my turn with the Columbia wreath. I was surrounded by the memorial tress when the T-38s screamed by... Looking up, I caught a quick, masked glance at the low-flying jets and saw Charlie's pull up to form the missing man. I have never been able to hold it together for a missing man formation. I just stood there - for the longest time... and finally moved over the Columbia wreath. Realistically, I was still in another place. Because I went back by later as I was walking out and had another "moment" with Columbia.It amazes me this still affects me the way it does. For the most part, my strong nature controls these feelings - allowing myself to experience them but not fall into them. Like my first trip to KSC after Columbia... Totally not even thinking, hurt and pain filed away, I wander on up the the ASF memorial with my parents and see the names of the Columbia crew on the wall. I lost it... like such a shock, seeing it makes it real. And today after already paying my respects, I stop by the Columbia wreath once more - and just stand there. No other activity or people to watch. Everyone is gone and it's just me - me and that pain. When I finally walked away, a photographer stopped me to get my name, asked if I worked here, and if I knew them. Yea, I knew a few of them. But, it is just so more than that.
When I got in the truck, Amazing grace was on. Why did I even put makeup on today?
T-38 pilots for the flyover were: Astronaut Charlie Hobaugh/Astronaut Pat Forrester ("pull up") Astronaut Ken Ham/Astronaut Steve Robinson Ray Heineman/Astronaut David Saint-Jacques Nebojza Solunak/Astronaut Soichi Noguchi (photo by Soichi)
A fifth T-38 in the air on standby (and likely not seen): Mike Giles/Astronaut Mike Hopkins
I noticed the clouds several times and thought they seemed to emanate slipping the surly bonds of the Earth.