I am pleased to report that Jonathan and I submitted the manuscript for Bringing Columbia Home to our editor yesterday.
We’ve been working on this book for nearly two years. In fact, it was two years ago today that we first met, at the funeral of our mutual friend, Norm Carlson.
The past two months felt very much like “Press to MECO” as we went through multiple reviews and revisions to meet our submission date. And just like after a successful Shuttle launch, now I can catch my breath and take the luxury of a little time to pause and reflect on the process that got us to this point and what it means to me.
What was the most significant learning I had in the process of helping Jonathan research and write Bringing Columbia Home? By far, it was how so many American citizens came together so willingly to help us when we needed it most.
Call it what you like. I like ‘the American Spirit.’
We were all hurting from the loss of Columbia. Most of all, the crew families were devastated. No more needs to be said about them.
Those of us in the NASA community were stunned and hurting.
The folks in East Texas were shocked and felt the loss deeply from the very beginning.
The 25,000 people from across America that came together over the course of three months to recover the astronauts and debris came to feel the loss just as much, and as soon as they joined the effort. There was no ‘ramp up’ in emotions.
I’m certain other people around the world felt an emotional connection to the accident as well.
What those of us involved in the recovery and reconstruction shared was something very special. It was the NEED to help. I know the same happens in war, though I have never personally experienced it. It is a need to help your country and comrades. Unique to America? No, but certainly true about us. It is something to be proud of, and to share.
This is precisely why the book will shortly exist.
ALL Americans should know this story of our country’s spirit at its best. They deserve to know it. I believe it’s especially important now when it seems like bickering and divisiveness have become a sort of new norm in our country.
If there’s a message of hope in a story about the aftermath of a terrible national tragedy, it is that Americans are at their very core a compassionate, caring, and committed people who will rise to a challenge and accomplishing incredible things.