I was watching the news last week when they announced the Space Shuttle Discovery would be making it’s very final trek in the skies before resting at the Udvar-Hazy Museum (or what we call The Smithsonian Dulles Museum). The newscaster explained the Shuttle would be traveling piggy back atop a 747 and it would fly low enough over the Mall for people to say farewell. I immediately went on line for more info.
I asked the boys if they wanted to miss school to join me in watching and they both declined. Isaiah is shooting for perfect attendance and despite his set backs with allergies and viruses he has not missed a single day of school. Eli is 13 and well, hanging with mom is not so cool. He opted to watch it with his science class outside his middle school.
So I set out solo for the Washington Monument. Which meant I had to submit to using the ever so loathsome Metro System (more on that later). I asked Bill over and over again “Which train do I take? How do I get a fare card? (Blue line largo…blue line largo…just put the $ in the machine).
As soon as I walked up I was filled with joy. The monument is so striking. I was sad to see her all fenced off due to the earthquake last August, but thankful we can still frolic at her feet (hmm or is it a he?)
Families, tourist and photographers were starting to fill the area. I got there early so I had the pleasure of watching it slowly evolve from a few hundred to over a thousand who all wanted to witness this moment in history.
I was immediately attracted to an adorable family of 2 boys & 2 girls. The oldest boy had his NASA astronaut costume on and I was thrilled at how perfect he looked in this setting. These kids had the best spot. Lincoln in front, Washington & Capitol behind, White House to the side. The weather was great, the sun was shining, what a fun family outing!
The mom was a super cool woman, who was very chillaxed when I asked if I could photograph her little Astronaut. Turns out she’s a blogger & writer…coolness! You can check out her blog!
Waiting for the Shuttle was a tinsy bit anxiety provoking. Every airplane that went over it was like, is that it? Then the air traffic at Reagan stopped so we all knew it was getting closer. I’d followed the NASA twitter feed and at 9:50 it said “DC, Look up, we are flying over!” I started loudly sharing this news with everyone around me and then a man pointed behind me and I could see it heading straight for us.
When the shuttle made it’s first pass I was literally shaking I was so excited. Everyone was excited and cheering and clapping and shouting. I was acting the fool trying to get the exact shot I wanted (Washington Monument in the Foreground, Shuttle Behind- flying “into” Monument).
There were 3 pass overs and each time it came a different way and I finally realized, the shot I really wanted was right in front of me. I found my adorable astronaut (Desmond) and simply asked him if I could take his picture looking at the Shuttle.
In one of the pics, you can’t see his face at all, but there is a sense of sadness, which is sort of what I was feeling. A mixture of excitement and sadness.
I remember sitting in my high school typing class in Amarillo, Texas watching live feed when the Challenger disintegrated. It was awful, sobering & I remember crying over Christa McAuliffe as if she had been my own science teacher.
Then 17 years later it was just a few days before my 34th Bday that the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over my home state of Texas. Again, I felt the sadness and sorrow that everyone felt. It’s hard to imagine being brave enough to embark on a challenge as demanding and rigorous as going into space, but to know there is always the chance that you might not survive is what makes it even more remarkable.
So as I watched Discovery today, she looked old and a bit ragged. We will go see her in person soon, but it was important for me to see her being flown over the Nations’ Capitol. It was a magnificent affair. Everyone was happy, excited and proud. While I tend to bellyache a lot about the DC Metro area, today I was proud. Proud to live in a place that was special enough it got a 45 minute flyover. I felt lucky that this little country bumpkin from “Cow Town, USA” was able to witness this moment from her “backyard”.
Farewell Discovery, Farewell Shuttle Program. May we never forget the journey, often filled with pain and grief. Today was a victorious day. I can’t help but think there were 14 Astronauts in the Heavens watching with joy as you made your glory ride today around the Capitol.