By Lydia Wherry
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
On Saturday, May 30, two American astronauts strapped themselves inside their chairs atop a rocket bound for space. Resting on their backs, looking through their window beyond and into the pathway of their final destination, the International Space Station (ISS), these two “Dads,” as the men in my household referenced them, held the hope of civilization in their hands. Not only were they carrying a mosaic created from 2020 High School graduate photos and cargo to resupply the ISS, they carried what we now need most — hope for the future.
I watched liftoff on the sands of a South Carolina beach, cupping my smartphone in the palm of my hands, as I strained to hear the countdown from minutes to seconds against the waves crashing and the wind swirling around me. My family was watching from their respective corners of the country, along with many other people around the world. Prayers were lifted, hands squeezed together in anticipation, hearts fluttering. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” rolled onto the tip of my tongue. The devastating loss of the Challenger space shuttle and its astronauts flickered inside my brain. The memory of a trip to Cape Canaveral as a child to see the launch of the Horizon capsule tugged at me.
All at once, on the mark of 3:22pm EST this past Saturday, the first engine fired and a pencil rocket lifted straight towards the heavens, powering against gravity, with the Dragon spacecraft at its tip. I remembered the roar and rumble under my feet again, from that day on July 15, 1975, when the Apollo spacecraft lifted off from American soil. My dad had taken me to Cape Canaveral. Dads and rockets. So many metaphorical images come to mind, but for this little girl, my dad enlarged my heart that day, filling it with hope and wonder. Apollo would join in space with the Soviet Union’s Soyuz spacecraft. For a period of time two worlds, two countries at odds, two very different peoples would come together on common ground.
I know many people forgot about how much money was in their bank account this past Saturday at 3:22pm EST. I know many momentarily forgot about the color of skin. I know others stopped bickering to watch the liftoff and reached out for each other’s hand. I know people switched from FACEBOOK and Twitter to SpaceX.com. Much like the moment in which we came together for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse that sunny afternoon in Edgefield on the Town Square, when we all looked up at once, beyond the murky madness of our present civilization to something greater than ourselves, we did the same at 3:22pm this past Saturday.
A woman directed the liftoff of the Dragon Z. NASA and SpaceX, an American institution and a revolutionary private sector company, respectfully, came together to make this launch possible. A white, bearded young man from NASA and another young man of Indian descent from Space X guided us through each step being taken leading up to blast-off. A wholly diverse and communal effort it was. In spite of and now because of COVID-19 and riots in the streets, two institutions showed us what it means to be American. It’s not about what I want or you want. It is about sowing the seeds of hope and finding community in our human connectedness. It’s our unwavering will and determination in the search for a better world. This is when Americans are at their best. I don’t know if George Floyd was a dad, or if Ahmaud Arbery had hoped to be one, but I think that wherever they are now is where we need to look for our hope. We need to all look up, not at each other, and take one small step for mankind here on earth. Most importantly, we can’t do it alone, but together as one Nation, under God with liberty and justice for all.
As we enter the month of June and leading up to Father’s Day, I am grateful to all of the dads out there striving for a better world.