We have written many times in this space about the difficulty that sudden, tragic passings create. Loved ones lost in a senseless, unpredictable and abrupt accidents seem to produce a grief that is multiplied by the swiftness of events.
We at Martin Oaks Crematory and Cemetery have experienced these unfortunate circumstances with clients many times through the years; repetition does not lessen the impact. It’s impossible to describe the reactions of various significant others — shock perhaps being the most significant, the most common of the terrible repercussions.
National tragedies, even if we are not in any way involved in the final disposition, likewise effect all of us in a similar shocking fashion. We may be at some distance or in some way disconnected, but nonetheless, we experience a share of this grief.
Two very sad anniversaries recently passed — both cry out for remembrance. On February 1, 2003, the Columbia Space Shuttle exploded over Texas skies, killing all seven crew members aboard as the mission was in the process of re-entry. A few years before that, on January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger met a horrible fate — seven crew members perished as it broke apart not a minute after takeoff.
If you are old enough to remember these tragedies, you will likely remember exactly where you were when you received the news.
The Challenger disaster occurred around 10:30 in the morning on Tuesday — but since this was something a special mission, it attracted the attention of a lot of Americans. The specialness was largely due to the fact that one of the astronauts, Christa McAuliffe, was a teacher, the first to ever take part in a NASA space launch.
How much attention was paid was indicated by later research: it has been estimated that over 80 percent of Americans were aware of the detonation within an hour of the event. In pre- social media days, in pre-round-the-clock televised news days, this was an incredibly quick transmission of information.
The causes of the catastrophe have been well documented — faulty O rings, a massive wind shear, all of have been well documented and are available on the internet.
Perhaps the cruelest aspect of the Challenger is that we can never be sure what actually caused the deaths of the brave heroes aboard — some believe that they were aware up until the actual moment of splash down. May God continue to rest their souls.
Due to the proximity of the Columbia explosion to many of us on the ground, the memories we have of that day are quite vivid.
It was a Saturday morning, just before 8 am. My wife and I were sound asleep, when there was terrifically loud explosion. At the time, we were living near downtown Dallas, so traffic accidents could produce prodigious noise — but this was much higher volume than the collusion of several vehicles. We were immediately aware that something very out of the ordinary was underway — we turned on a local television station and it wasn’t too long before the grim news was presented.
Cause of the re-entry accident was a suitcase size piece of foam that detached from the external fuel tank during lift-off — that foam hit the shuttle’s wing, causing damage that eventually turned fatal.
A recent book by Michael Leinbach, “Bringing Columbia Home,” contains a detailed account of everything you might want to know.
The subsequent search for remnants of Columbia, the largest ground search in the history of the country, was also not without its horrible moments: several lost their lives in a helicopter crash which was part of the recovery effort.
We at Martin Oaks salute those who paid the ultimate price in the service of our space program — we trust that many prayers have been offered and will continue to be offered in their memory.