The Miracle in The Skies: Space Shuttle Endeavor
A once in a lifetime opportunity, looking for a tangible, unifying miracle
On Friday, the twenty-first of September, a friend and I had a lunch date. After all, her employer was out of town and would not return until sometime the next week. She and I had planned to drive to the Santa Clarita area, where one sees more restaurants than Starbucks. (A rare occurrence, wouldn't you say?) In our minds, we had already placed our orders for a ladylike drink of an alcoholic beverage, and were considering what we desired for our meal.
Published on LatinoLA: September 24, 2012
In discussing the plans over the phone, we were both watching coverage of the Space Shuttle Endeavor's final flight. It looked so magnificent atop the larger plane, the skies blue and people everywhere, wanting to catch a glimpse as it flew. One of us said, "Wanna go see if we can see it?" and soon we had her husband in tow, ready to plan our position for the best location to view it.
I prepared my friends that I would probably become all llorona, because I had cried the night before, simply watching coverage of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark. Apparently NASA had agreed to his request that the plane fly over Tucson en route to Los Angeles. Gabby Giffords, such a miraculous person in her own right, was clearly thrilled as the plane circled overhead, as she and her husband stood atop a parking structure at the University. Ms. Giffords waved and hopped a bit, as her husband held her by her other arm. "There is my spaceship," he proudly told her.
On the day Mark and his crew lifted off on that Space Shuttle, his wife had the opportunity to see it. She was then taken back to her doctors and her hospital and underwent another in the series of surgeries she endured after the assassination attempt. Both members of that couple, beloved to one another and loved by so many others, each took another step in the path that they followed. The shuttle was aptly named: "Endeavour."
As my friends and I stood in the shade of an overpass closest to JPL in La Crescenta, more and more people began to arrive. I was so touched as I saw a Latino family, generations of them, approaching. First the Abuelita, lovely in a cool, summertime outfit, her hair beautifully done, was aided by her respectful son-in-law. She walked carefully, but surely, with the occasional use of a cane. Her daughters and grand-daughter followed, and a handsome gentleman brought up the rear. His mustache and demeanor reminded me of my Papi. The shorts added to the "Papi" look. He was charming, as were all the members of the family.
I learned their last names were "Lopez", a name close to mi corazon. I am a "Lopez", too, through my Mami's lineage. It was so wonderful to speak to them in Spanish, which I consider, along with English, my native language. My parents brought us all up speaking both languages. I was about four years old when I realized that they were different languages. And I am so proud to carry that heritage and culture, that honor that my parents bestowed on their children.
I saw people whom I might ordinarily see in the Pasadena area, not the "blue hairs", but perhaps the daughters of the "blue hairs." I met a Middle Eastern gentleman who moved about, readying his camera for the best possible shot of the oncoming shuttle, piggy-backed on the larger plane, and accompanied by one or two other planes. He and I struck up a conversation and I learned about his culture and he, about mine. I really enjoyed our conversation as we bumped into each other in the growing, restless crowd.
A mother pushed a small child in a baby carriage, with a slightly older boy at her side. I caught a snippet of her conversation with her son..."This is a once in a lifetime chance..." The breeze carried her words back to me. The older boy looked a bit puzzled but moved along with his Mom and brother, ready for whatever she was going to show them.
Some of us were receiving reports from people on cell phones, watching the coverage at home. Every phone call brought information that was passed down the sidewalk, like the "wave" at a baseball game. There were contradictory reports. But the throng of people, more than I had ever seen on any of those sidewalks and walkways, were as one. United in their love of country, respect for the accomplishments of the human mind and heart, proud of this tremendous achievement.
All of us there, regardless of country of origin, religion, cultural beliefs, backgrounds -- all of us were but a small number in the numbers that turned their view skyward -- looking for a tangible, unifying miracle. I heard later that my younger niece was able to see the shuttle, as the students in her school were told, "Go outside to the field, it is coming in this direction." My brother-in-law, a man who works outside in the heat of summer and the chill of winter, was at a street corner when the planes flew by in formation. Even as we were separated, my family and I, we were unified in the love of this country. The love inculcated in us by our parents.
I so wished my Papi had been here to see this with us. Somehow, I think he was. And he was saying, "Mira no mas, Lupita. Mira no mas."
Writer and Los Angeles Attorney