I wanted to be an astronaut in the third grade, but at that time there were no women astronauts. I also wore glasses and back then - you couldn’t wear glasses and go to space. I also loved Star Wars and Star Trek and have continued to be a fan. I am old enough to have seen Star Wars in a movie theatre. I even had the Star Wars soundtrack on a vinyl record and would listen to it while I did my calculus homework. I also built a large model of the Millennium Falcon, which hung from the ceiling in my bedroom for several years. I majored in math and physics so I am all in, with regard to science and space. I was lucky enough to attend a small event with the first female African American astronaut, Mae Carol Jemison, and she was amazing – kind, insightful and authentic.
Attending a space rocket launch has been on my bucket list for many years. I wanted to feel as connected as possible, to the dream of space and humanity as envisioned by Star Wars and Star Trek. I went to Cape Canaveral area yesterday to watch the launch. The crowds were surprisingly large. I didn’t think they would be because of the coronavirus, but they were. I managed to find a place to park and a restaurant, Shiloh, where they were letting in pedestrians, for $5 a person, to watch the blast-off. The blast-off didn’t happen, but so much more did.
I didn’t bring any cash and they didn’t take credit cards, but these two kind gentlemen let me in anyway. I have a foot problem and have to use one of those rollator walkers to get there. So they may have taken pity on me and couldn’t see me trying to walk somewhere else to find a place.
Once I got settled, there were three boys playing behind me – maybe 8-12 years old – not exactly sure; the age where they don’t have to be closely watched, but young enough to still be boys - idealistic, imaginative, innocent and full of energy. Their parents did watch them from afar and would caution them if they got too close to other people, but the boys were able to play so authentically, so un-self-consciously. What were they playing, you ask? . . . Star Wars. I could hear them and they knew all the movies and all the characters. “You be Kylo Ren and I’ll be Mandalorian.” “Pretend we are in the smelly place.” “I’ll save you!” The imaginary light sabers flashed and clashed as these young heroes courageously battled the villains.
A police officer from the Sherriff’s office came by with a magnificent service dog – a greyhound with the long droopy ears and face. He looked so sweet. The officer said that people could pet the dog so the boys and other kids petted the dog. The dog also loved it’s belly being rubbed so it would roll over and the kids, and the parents, would take turns doing this.
When the launch was scrubbed, I started to pack up and leave. As I did this, a girl appeared before me, probably about the same age as the boys. She was staring at me. I said “hi” She said “hi” back. Then she said, “I’m sad. I wanted to hear a sonic boom.” I said, “Me too. This would be my first launch and it’s on my bucket list.” I doubt she knew what a bucket list is, but she said with determination and certainty, “It’s ok though. They plan to launch on Saturday and I will be here.” I said “I hope to be here too.” Then, seeing me gathering all my stuff, she said, “Do you need any help? I told her no, but thanked her for offering.
So the physical launch was scrubbed, but the spiritual launch flew. People from all other the world, from all nationalities, shared a moment. A moment of hope - where once again, humanity works together to reach the stars, to take the next step in our destiny. It was the essence of space travel and the best of humanity. Where two young men show kindness to a middle-aged-lady, a police officer shows kindness to the community, little boys valiantly slay the monsters and save the people, and a little girl offers to help a stranger. In the face of the coronavirus and the current political environment, it is sometimes difficult to maintain hope. Yesterday, it was easy.