"What, did it affect you on a personal level?”
First of all, define what you mean by that. Are you asking me if it affected me on a personal level because I was directly, immediately, physically affected by the accident? Or are you asking if I was affected by it on a personal, emotional level, because it spoke to something inside of me and moved me?
If you meant the latter, then yes, sir, it did affect me on a very personal level.
That comment from my co-worker threw me so off-guard. It almost felt condescending, as if he were saying, “Why in the world would you care about that? No one remembers that!” (When I mentioned the anniversary was coming up on Friday, it took them several seconds for them to figure out what I was talking about. Clearly, some people have forgotten.)
Let’s put this in a bit of perspective. Allow me to ask you this — are you affected on a personal level when your favorite sports team loses a game? Do you lose money or months of training when that team loses? Then why do you have any reason to be upset when they do lose? It’s because it’s emotional — there is something about it that you are tied to on a deep emotional level. It may not be directly affecting you, but in many ways, it is.
Except, losing seven souls in space flight is vastly different than a sports team losing a game. There is the loss of human life involved.
And you ask me if I was personally affected by this mission.
I may have not lost a family member in that accident, as seven families had the horror of experiencing. But my heart is tied, married, you could say, to the space program — this mission, the ill-fated STS-107, is what helped to spark that deep and driving love I have of space exploration and human spaceflight.
That is why I care. That is why I will never forget.