Now Cough

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Lift off

Being there

It has been 44 years Monday (Feb 20, 1962) since John Glenn took three trips around the Earth and became the first American to orbit the planet.

You cannot imagine the tension and attention paid to the event. It was one of the few times, outside of a presidential speech, that i can recall live television coverage in glorious black and white.

Sister James Bernard rolled the TV on a stand to the front of the packed 2nd grade classroom. And as the countdown headed toward the inevitable we were commanded to stand at our desks, hands folded and recite the Our Father. Talk about a clash of religion and science!

I was so excited I barely mouthed the words. What was racing through my mind was "Go!Go!"

The rocket was so crude looking, and now does appear so much smaller and fragile and risky than what we see today. Cape Canaveral (JFK would be murdered the next year) looked as desolate as a strip of scrubby beach crammed with roads and concrete.

It took hours to learn about the fears that Glenn's heatshield might be loose. All I know is how thrilling this was and how I looked forward to space launches for years afterward.



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