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We are still capable of great things

By By James Crawford
News Editor
May 25, 1961: "It is a most important decision that we must make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.
Because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share." President John Fitzgerald Kennedy – speaking on the United States' endeavor to send a man to the moon and return him to Earth safely and on our continuing mission to united as a nation and as a people in the continued pursuit of space exploration.
On Jan. 28, 1986, I was in eighth grade. Specifically, I was in an eighth-grade social studies class with Mr. Hathcock at Riverside Junior High School in Tuscaloosa, Ala. when I watched the space shuttle Challenger explode just 73 seconds after liftoff on a 19-inch TV in a crowded room with my friends and classmates.
The shock of watching it happen at that age has stuck with me to this day. I have felt that feeling only two other times in my TV watching life. One of those days was Sept. 11, 2001 watching CNN and the other was last Saturday, when I watched footage of the space shuttle Columbia explode over Texas as it reentered the Earth just days after the 17th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy.
It reminded me of watching then-President Ronald Reagan speak on TV that night so many years ago, telling us that the shuttle crew "slipped the surly bonds of space to touch the face of God."
The words were of little comfort to me as a boy but they mean a great deal now. So do the words of former President Kennedy mentioned above. Kennedy outlined that to be a great nation we have to take these kinds of chances and push ourselves to become greater and nobler than ever before.
I chose to dedicate this column to the crew of Columbia and the mission of NASA because in the midst of all the tragedy and troubles we've had in Atmore and in the United States it's important to remember that we are still a great nation who has citizens willing to do great things and we are still a great city.
Sometimes things go wrong, but it doesn't mean we should give up. Much as in the same way that despite the recent troubles in Atmore we should not give up here either.
The crew of Columbia risked their lives to further the cause of science and of space travel, a benefit for mankind the world over. Here in Atmore we don't have to take those kinds of risks.
Instead, to borrow the words of President Kennedy, we only have important decisions to make. Decisions concerning if we will be willing make sacrifices to save education, adjust our habits to shop locally to save our city and if we will stand behind our local leaders, who have the burden of fighting the unknown future, much as the astronauts do in space.
So please join me in taking a moment to remember the crew of the Columbia and the crew of the Challenger, both of whom gave their lives for the greater good of all and think about what you could do here in Atmore that would be just as noble and great to help save a fantastic little city with great people before it too breaks up into tiny pieces and blows away.
James Crawford is the News Editor of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached by phone at 368-2123 or by e-mail at james.crawford@atmoreadvance.com.