Jan 29 2013

Numbers fascinate me. Playing with numbers and their relationships really fascinates me. And, when those relationships are represented by years, I almost lose control.

For example, are you old enough to remember the Challenger Disaster, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded seventy-three seconds after launch? I wonder if you realize that was twenty-seven years ago today, January 28, 1986. Twenty-seven years. It doesn’t seem long at all. Twenty-seven years until now. I can close my eyes and feel like I’m there.

No, not at Cape Canaveral or Cape Kennedy, depending on your time period as to what the space center was called, but in my quilt store, up in the office where my store employees and I were watching the lift off. Watching and excited about the shuttle crew containing two woman astronauts, we followed Dr. Judith Resnick and elementary school teacher, Crista McAuliffe as they prepared to launch.

In June of 1983, Sally Ride had become the first woman in Space, but Dr. Resnick, a 1977 Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland, had been selected as one of the first six women to be selected by NASA along with Sally Ride.  I identified with the two women astronauts, and considered gender the more restrictive factor in astronaut selection. There had been different racial types of people selected to be astronauts, but all of them had been men.

So, with me being gender discriminatory, which is never a good thing, my radar was not set to recognize the life long achievements of one of the other astronauts, Ronald McNair, a black man from South Carolina, the second black man in space. Just recently, I found a video on YouTube.com that was so very interesting, I decided to share it with my BlogHer friends today, the anniversary of when the Challenger exploded, twenty-seven years ago.


Revisiting the Space Shuttle Challenger and her Crew on January 28, 1986.

You see, when Ronald McNair was a little boy, black people were not allowed to visit a library in the white part of town and take out books. Did you know that? When Ronald was nine years old, in 1959, it was years after school desegregation laws went through officially, but long before the behavior of many people changed for the better. Ronald wanted to borrow some books from the library in his home town of Lake City, South Carolina, read about space and…

Well, why don’t I just share the video I like so much and let it tell the story. In fact, even better than a story, this will be an eye witness account of events in 1959, because the speaker is Ronald McNair’s brother, Carl.

Astronaut Ronald McNair started out as a little boy reading about space.

And so, my point is, I hear people on BlogHer and elsewhere fussing and fuming about the lack of change in rights and that’s right to do. Change is good and no, we are not as a society where we need or want to be to fully represent all the bounty of humankind. But, as we work to bring equality full circle, let us be thankful for what has been accomplished so far to insure people’s rights when it comes to race, gender, religious and sexual orientation.

Just as now, there were lots of us working very hard to affect change all along and although there is much left to do, we need to recognize and appreciate those who have come before. For every nasty librarian that wouldn’t let a little boy borrow books, there were others, such as the policemen in the video, who recognized injustice and put their employment on the line, to do the right thing, one small effective action at a time.

And, like I remember 1986, I remember 1959, the year the “new” Lincoln penny came out and the year Ronald McNair went to the library as a nine year old to borrow books. It’s amazing is that it was only twenty-seven years from the time the Ronald McNair borrowed those books against the wishes of the librarian, until he died that Challenger launch day as a nationally recognized Ph.D. in laser physics. Lots can happen in only twenty-seven years.

When I think of how society has changed so far, I am very thankful. The glass is half full. Twenty-seven years. It’s been only twenty-seven years since the Challenger Disaster, and it was only twenty-seven years before that, a young boy’s heart and mind shot for the stars, against all odds.

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Filed under: Heart,History — admin @ 2:07 am Comments (1)

One response to “What Happened (27 x 2) Years Ago Today?”

  1. I’m sorry that I only just now found this beautiful post! I am a dedicated StoryCorps fan and somehow, I missed Carl McNair’s recording, so thank you!

    And I agree, I am 47 and I still marvel at how far we’ve come in race issues, womens’ rights and now, in GLBT issues. Progress is tangible on all these fronts and should be celebrated amidst the ongoing fight.

    I’ll think of Ron tonight when I look at the stars.

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