public lives, public deaths
Slate has a nice collection of editorial cartoons about the Columbia.
This was my favorite - it also made me cry.
How many kids dream of some day taking a trip into space? At some point or other, almost every kid has said they wanted to be an astronaut.
It's another sad moment not only for us, but for our children. Another day we have to explain death and heroes to them. Another day they see us cry.
I've been reading around and I see plenty of people pointing to the seven high school kids who died in an avalanche this weekend; they point to train wrecks and car crashes and death in high numbers due to famine or cold.
I understand that grief comes in large numbers. It's the way of nature that so many people die each day. But not all of us die doing what we loved. Not all of us die as heroes to some, as explorers reaching places that we only dare to dream about.
The crew of the Columbia died while working for our future. That does not make their lives any more or less important than a an unkown man who was hit by a car last night or a an young woman in another country who died in a train derailment.
But the astronauts were public people. The greatest moment of their lives, and the lost moment of their lives were both played out on television. We knew their names, we knew who they were. That's what makes their deaths more immediate to us than that of someone thousands of miles away, whose face we have never seen.
Just as no life should go unrecognized, no death should go unrecognized either. We do what we can to mourn the loss of friends and family and distant people whose plights we read about in the paper.
When so many are recognizing death at once, it makes it bigger. We become a collective sigh, a tear on the face of the earth.
To mourn the seven crew members as if we knew them is to say that we did. We did know them, for they were our future.