I drove into the back parking lot of the Assisted Living Facility this morning and noticed a gaggle of nurses and aides standing by the lake. I waved to them, wondering vaguely what they were doing there, and went into the building for my daily visit with my mother.
Once inside, I remembered that I had forgotten something in the car and turned to go out again. An aide rushed past me as I exited the building and I heard one of the women on the lake shore call,
"Hurry up, Maggie, my radio said it just went up!"
"Of course," I thought, "the shuttle. It was supposed to launch this morning." Thick clusters of live oaks surround the parking lot; the women were waiting by the lake where they would have an unobstructed view of the sky.
As I crossed the parking lot to my car I scanned the sky over the lake. Nothing. Then I turned and looked to the south, in the direction of Cape Canaveral. Suddenly a cigar shape, shining in the sun, burst into view. Discovery!
"Hey!" I called. "There it is, over the dumpster area, about halfway between the treetops and the sun."
Discovery continued to rise majestically, pure gold in the sunlight, its vapor trailing behind it. Then it disappeared behind a cloud and appeared again a few seconds later, higher in the clear blue space over Florida.
There were "Ohs" and "Ahs" from the lakeside group and one woman said, fervently, "Isn't it beautiful!"
Another cloud, and when the shuttle appeared again it had turned east-southeast. We could no longer distinguish the length of it, just a diminishing dot and two white lines against the blue.
That was it. A successful launch. But the day remained special for every resident of Central Florida. Once again,
our shuttle was up.