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Columbia Touched Our Souls


Gregory J. Rummo

The destruction of the space shuttle Columbia has profoundly touched Americans, indeed the world.  Millions sat in stunned silence, riveted to their television sets on Saturday as they followed the unfolding tragedy.

A tearful President Bush addressed the nation at 2 PM that day, expressing his grief and offering condolences to the families of those killed on the mission.

And then he touched our souls with a quote from the Old Testament book of Isaiah: “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Shuttle launches have become symbolic of America like Mount Rushmore or the Washington Monument. They are technological marvels—proud displays of what the best and the freest scientific minds can accomplish. They also provide an international stage upon which brave men and women from different countries and with different backgrounds can train together for many months, working as a team toward the betterment of mankind.

People from all over the world vacationing in Florida flock to Titusville every year to witness shuttle launches.

A shuttle launch is something majestic. Experiencing one in person provides an awesome demonstration of man’s desire to reach beyond the boundaries of his own world.

It was almost two years ago on a warm day in April. A gentle breeze blew across the blue water of Florida’s Intercostal Waterway as a few pelicans lazily flew by. Five miles away on the other side of the bay stood the space shuttle Endeavour.

We had waited over two hours with several thousand other people. Because the shuttle was scheduled to rendezvous with the international space station on this mission, the launch window was a very narrow five minutes. But as the clock wound down it became apparent that this mission was going to get off the ground without a hitch. Suddenly an orange flame shot out from underneath the shuttle as
the two solid rocket boosters ignited. The flame was momentarily hidden behind the cloud of thick, gray rocket fuel exhaust and white clouds of water vapor from the combustion of the liquid oxygen and hydrogen fueling Endeavour’s three main engines.

Then the shuttle rose from its launch pad and instantly the crowd exploded into wild cheers.  The wind carried the rumble of the engines to our ears some twenty-five seconds later. As the ground trembled and the Endeavour climbed ever higher, my eyes welled up with tears.

President Bush said we are “led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand.” He understands this inspiration to reach into the heavens is anchored in our spiritual nature, the result of our creation in the image of God.

Another Old Testament writer named Job asked rhetorically, “Is not God in the height of heaven? ...You will make your prayer to Him, He will hear you.” As Americans mourn the death of Columbia’s seven astronauts, these words serve as a reminder that even in the midst of this national tragedy, God is still very much with us and is willing to listen to our prayers.

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Contact him through his website;


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