|A visitor to my "Icarus Rising" web
site once signed my guestbook with the words, "It's good to remember."
Upon reflection such a thought seems contradictory: how could it be good
to remember a day of such sadness and horror, a day when the endless blue
sky was sundered by a monstrous "Y" in the heavens as both innocents and
innocence perished before our eyes? Would we not, now as then, wish
to shield our eyes and those of our children from the nightmare looming
above us? It would seem that all that we would ever want to do with
such a day would be to forget it forever... and yet, "It's good to remember."
"Why?" we wonder, echoing the "Y" in the sky nine miles overhead. I believe that the answer is found in our understanding not only that the Challenger 7 died on that day but also that a part of us died with them. The innocence that perished along with the Challenger was not just the innocence of the millions of school children who watched death unfold on live TV... it was our own innocence as well that perished. We mourn the loss of a childlike faith that everything will work out okay in the end, that the shuttle will yet sail safely out of the cloud, that the momentary fright will pass and our loved ones will return home to us safe and sound.
And yet, still, "It's good to remember."
And it is indeed good, for in the act of remembering we redeem from the pit of despair that which had been lost. In remembering the Challenger 7 we literally put back together again those things which had been broken to pieces -- their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations -- and redeem them as our own. And in so redeeming those hopes, dreams and aspirations as our own we resurrect them from death to life... a new life beyond anything which the eye had seen or the ear had heard or had entered the human heart before.
Something of us all indeed died with the Challenger 7... and in that dying something new was born again.
In a moment suspended between time
and eternity the Challenger 7 became transfigured before us, the
veil of their brave, fragile mortality lifted to reveal the imperishable
flame of heroism and self-sacrifice as they were in truth "caught up together
in the clouds." There is a very real redemption in remembering and
retelling the story of Christ-a McAuliffe and her crewmates who,
like Elijah aboard the fiery chariot, ascended into heaven upon a whirlwind
of smoke and flame on that cold January morning so many years ago.
In remembering them we remember not only the mortal sorrow and pain of
loss, theirs and ours, but also the immortal dreams and hopes that they
embodied, and in so doing we redeem and resurrect their hopes and dreams
for ourselves and for the whole world. The families of the Challenger
astronauts, who bear the pain of loss most personally and deeply, remember
to this day, and in so doing they, as commissioned apostles, redeem and
resurrect the seemingly lost mission of the Challenger 7 as the
great commission of the Challenger Learning Centers, a mission of education
and faith in the future that has far transcended anything that a "successful"
flight could have ever achieved. It is as if the still, small voice
of those seven spirits who have gone on before yet whispers in their families'
hearts and ours, "Do this in remembrance of us."
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into
the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it
bears much fruit."
There is a timeless perfection that has been since time immemorial ascribed to the number 7... a perception of divinity... a glimpse of eternity. Though we now only see through a mirror dimly, I believe that there will one day come a time, a moment, when, in the twinkling of an eye, we will see and understand that there were forces far larger than arctic cold fronts and solid rocket motors at work on that brilliant Florida morning fifteen years ago, when seven brave challengers of the heavens soared out of time... and into eternity... Borne on Wings of Steel.
It's good to remember.