In 2013, Roselle Park, New Jersey planted a little seedling (which had been grown from seeds they had taken into space on a previous mission) on the lawn of their library to honor the astronauts who perished in the Feb 1, 2003 Columbia disaster. I wrote this poem and, as the town’s Poet Laureate, read it at the planting ceremony. This Thursday is the 15th anniversary of their deaths so I thought I would share it with you:

You were lifted up, up, up on a chariot of fire

To where up had no meaning;

Where you could look upon your home

A tiny blue/green globe shrouded in clouds,

Framed by the velvety blackness of space.

You were astronauts, selected humans who explored

The depths of the unknown, space, our last frontier.

Secure in the belly of your giant bird, we earthbound mortals

Were privileged to see your smiling faces

across the thousands of miles of dark inhospitable space.

To see the delight you took in conducting your experiments.

Sending us pictures of stars,

twinkling like holiday lights on velvet

And views of that blue/green globe shrouded in clouds

that left us breathless.

You seven and the orbiter Columbia, stole our hearts.

 

Then came that cold winter’s morning

When like a meteor you streaked across the sky

Of  your/our  blue/green planet shrouded in clouds.

Becoming dust, turning into the stardust from whence we all come.

Like Icarus, you fell to earth, nevermore to fly among the stars.

 

Where once we counted down, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 to liftoff

We now count up 6,7,8,9,10 from that morning.

The orbiters fly no more, they now are earthbound

Giving homage to the time when courage and curiosity lifted

Humankind up up up to the stars.

 

So how do we never forget your heroism and your courage?

To honor your memory

We take a seedling whose seed traveled

In the belly of your orbiter where up had no meaning.

And plant it in the soil of this blue/green shrouded in clouds planet.

So that it may send its roots down, down deep into the earth.

As it grows, it will lift its leafy arms up

Up to the sky, saluting the constellations,

The stars, of which you are now a part.

For if we are to remember you,

Honor you,

Give meaning to your sacrifice,

Then we must work to make this world, our blue/green planet shrouded in clouds,

A better place.

And we must always…keep reaching for the stars.

2013 Leona M Seufert,

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