At 11 years old, I had no technical appreciation for the command, "Challenger, you are go for throttle up." Nor did I have any real appreciation for what the bull-horned cloud of smoke meant or why my 6th grade teacher was so horrified and quickly switched off the TV set. And on the evening of January 28, 1986, I didn't appreciate President Ronald Reagan's recitation of "High Flight" by John Magee. Indeed, it wasn't until years later that I appreciated any of it.
But today I do. Thirty-four years later, I fully appreciate the loss of life, the national tragedy, and the brutal shock of it all. I appreciate my teacher's concern for my wellbeing, I appreciate the President's words of comfort, and I appreciate the poetry of John Magee. I appreciate God's protection of my family and me that day. I appreciate that NASA didn't close its doors; rather, it worked through the technical and administrative problems and returned to space a couple of years later. I appreciate that we live in a nation chocked full of people who--like the seven Challenger astronauts--are explorers...who are always looking over the horizon to discover the next horizon. I appreciate the courage it takes to strap oneself to a multi-ton rocket destined for a 17,000 mph ride into space. I appreciate Neil Armstrong, who took the first step on the moon and Yuri Gagarin, who first punched through the great firmament. I appreciate Magellan, who explored the great ocean; Columbus, who found the West Indies; and John F. Kennedy, who revived a nation's heartbeat when he challenged us "to go to the moon...not because it is easy but because it is hard." I appreciate whatever spirit of discovery I harbor. I appreciate the inquisitiveness of my children. I appreciate the desire God puts inside of each of us to think better, do better, and be better.
So, January 28th, though a solemn day of remembrance, is also a day of celebration. It is a day to thank God for the boldness of the human spirit. It is a day to give thanks for all of your personal blessings and the blessings of our nation. It is a day to appreciate...a day to grow...and a day to go into tomorrow at throttle up.