The trip started on a bad note. The night before lots of lighting in the area had not been a good sign, nor had the storm we drove through that morning. Mission control was estimating a 70% chance of a delay. We pushed with our plans - complete with camping chair, sun screen and a bus ride that started a 4:00 am to get to the Nasa visitor center very early. I *thought* I had purchased tickets to see the shuttle taking off but I had arrived at the Nasa visitor center to find out you can't actually see the launchpad at all. We would only see the shuttle as it cleared a row of trees in the distance. My dreams of seeing the launch in the way I imagined were fading fast.
But we were there so we plopped ourselves down along with the rest of the crowds and looked skyward. The feeling in the air was definitely tense as we all waited. Would it go or no?
Mr. L was smart enough to bring a little radio with him so we could hear mission control. With a few minutes to launch time we each took an earbud and listened as the various leads gave their go, no-go decisions. After the full round checks and some more tense moments of wonder, all was a go. The crowd cheered.
I'm not sure what came over me but I felt tears coming to my eyes. I'm not a particularily patriotic person but hearing that in person, feeling the excitement of the crowd and being in a position were I was about to watch something I never dreamed I'd witness all sort of ovewelmed me. Finally as the seconds counted down, a man behind me turned to a stranger and said with awe "I've waited my whole life for this.". That was it - full on tears were coming now. As I pulled my sunglasses down and wondered what was wrong me, I turned around and saw quite a lot of the crowd were wiping away their own tears.
The countdown started soon afterward and we all waited with cameras overhead and a feeling of tense excitement as the engines were started and the shuttle took its last blast into the air. The crowd cheered as we saw it clear the trees and head straight up into the cloud cover. It was only a few moments before the shuttle disappeared but it was amazing. Then the sounds of the blast came our way, capping off a few minutes of pure joy.
I have no idea why I was so taken with it. To be honest, I came in hopes of taking a few good photos and being done with it but it was a magical few minutes where I got totally caught up in the wonder of it all and the sadness of the ending of an era. And despite not getting the greatest photos or having the most perfect view, it was still a great experience. There is a platitude in there somewhere :)
What were your reactions to the shuttle launch?