preface from Columbia album

(this intro is from the lin­er-notes to my CD Colum­bia: We Dare to Dream)

I did­n’t know them.  I didn’t know their names, or that they had been in space for six­teen days, or that they were called the “STS-107” crew, or even what “STS” meant.  But I was sit­ting next to my piano on the morn­ing of Feb­ru­ary 1st, 2003 when I heard the news… the awful news that the space shut­tle Colum­bia had just bro­ken apart upon reen­try, 200,000 feet high in the skies over Texas, and that the entire crew had undoubt­ed­ly per­ished.  It was unfath­omable.  I hadn’t known them, that crew of sev­en, but my heart was sud­den­ly sear­ing with pain for their families.

In the days and months that fol­lowed, I was rarely far from the piano, I couldn’t leave the piano.  This music just poured out like a flood; it poured out of nowhere, for the Colum­bia space shut­tle and all who had loved her, for the astro­nauts and for their fam­i­lies.  And very slow­ly I began to dis­cov­er who these sev­en astro­nauts had been.

Anne Cabrera composing at her piano

It didn’t take long to find out their names and their amaz­ing accom­plish­ments.  What was sur­pris­ing to me was to find out that they had been “astro­nauts” in the truest sense– not peo­ple who were born as heroes from the start, but peo­ple who instead had been ordi­nary human beings with incred­i­ble atti­tude, extra­or­di­nary atti­tude… human beings that had been innate­ly curi­ous to explore the uni­verse, human beings that had had unwa­ver­ing deter­mi­na­tion and per­se­ver­ance in every­thing they had under­tak­en, that had refused to give up on their dreams, human beings who had worked relent­less­ly for most of their lives to learn what­ev­er was nec­es­sary to serve human­i­ty in space.

And serve us they did, doing more than 80 micro­grav­i­ty exper­i­ments, exper­i­ments that could only be done in space and that might poten­tial­ly ben­e­fit the lives of every per­son on the plan­et.  I didn’t know the STS-107 crew, and I’m sure they didn’t know my name, but they flew for me any­way.  They flew for all of us, to make our lives bet­ter.  And that means they flew for you too.

Not every­one gets to fly.  Only a lim­it­ed num­ber of astro­nauts have ever flown in space, and yet thou­sands of noble peo­ple have worked their lives behind the scenes to help to get them there… engi­neers, sci­en­tists, con­trac­tors, tech­ni­cians, mis­sion con­trol spe­cial­ists, sup­port per­son­nel, sec­re­taries… and that huge pyra­mid of sup­port peo­ple does not stop there.  The pyra­mid extends to us, it includes you and me, because with­out our sup­port and our inter­est our astro­nauts can­not fly.  With­out us, the dreams of space­flight and explo­ration die, our tech­nol­o­gy with­ers, and the qual­i­ty of our lives stagnates.

So here we are in this huge pyra­mid of peo­ple who are respon­si­ble for help­ing our astro­nauts to get into space, and they know it.  Every time our astro­nauts risk their lives and climb atop a live rock­et, they are acute­ly aware that they rep­re­sent us, that they are fly­ing for us, and they feel that hon­or and risk and pres­sure.  They are our fin­ger­tips, reach­ing out to touch the unknowns of the stars, reach­ing out to make our lives better.

They dare to dream, but so do we through them.  We dare to dream.  If you have any doubts of that, just watch a video of any space shut­tle launch and see if you can keep your heart from leap­ing, see if you can keep your mouth from say­ing, “Oh gosh, wow.….”.  Yes, we dare to dream; it is a part of who we are as human beings.

When we dare to dream, some­times we fall.  And fall we did, ter­ri­bly, on that Feb­ru­ary morn­ing of 2003.  But does that mean that we should stop and nev­er pick our­selves up, nev­er learn and nev­er dare to dream again?  That would be the most hor­rif­ic of all tragedies: for us to give up on Colum­bia, for us to for­get them, our fin­ger­tips.  True heroes do not for­get those with extra­or­di­nary atti­tude.  True heroes nev­er give up, even in the low­est of times.  And true heroes nev­er hes­i­tate for too long after falling down, but instead climb to their feet with even greater knowl­edge and purpose.

We owe it to Colum­bia and to our­selves to con­tin­ue their mis­sion, our mis­sion, of sci­ence and explo­ration of the heav­ens.  For it is in this type of reach­ing and explo­ration that you and I can become more than we thought we could ever be as human beings; through this we can also become “astro­nauts” in the truest sense: ded­i­cat­ed, unselfish explor­ers with extra­or­di­nary attitude.

To the Colum­bia STS-107 crew, to their fam­i­lies, and to all who helped build, main­tain, and fly the world’s first reusable mag­nif­i­cent space­ship: this music is for you.  It is for all of us who dare to dream.

Hail Colum­bia.

copy­right 2008 by Anne Cabrera

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