Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Heroes

Monday, July 17, 2006


It has been a long day. Despite a nasty flare of shin splints from my overenthusiastic march up the hill this weekend, I managed to get my aching body up on the treadmill while I watched the news this morning. I was beyond disappointed to miss the Space Shuttle launch a few days ago after two cancelations due to thunderstorms but was delighted to discover I was up in time to see it land today. I whispered my own familiar prayer for this particular occasion as it pierced through the clouds at 200 miles per hour and began its descent into a surprisingly graceful, perfect landing. I always wonder how the men and women inside feel upon coming home. I always foster an odd sense of excitement when I see these strangers return. I suppose they are heroes to the little girl in me.

I remember my parents getting me and my little brother out of our beds in the pitch black hours of early morning one day in 1981 to witness the Space Shuttle Columbia take off for the first time on television. I was only 10. It rumbled into space after an eerie-sounding, faceless voice counted down. At the time, I did not grasp how significant that event was, although I now cherish that memory very much. When I was 16, I was sitting in my English class in utter agony with overtightened braces when another television was suddenly wheeled in on a creaky AV cart, repeatedly playing the sickening, fiery crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger. A school staff member announced the tragedy over the loudspeaker. That was another day I will never forget. Over the years, my father gathered our family on the back deck more than once to see if we could spot orbiting shuttles passing overhead, and we did indeed see them glistening as they made their way across the black, star-studded expanse of desert sky, right on schedule. Years later, Brian and I were on our honeymoon cruise in 2001 preparing to board a small boat headed to Catalina Island one dreary morning when the Shuttle Endeavour flew over and broke the sound barrier, creating an earth-shaking sonic boom. My heart pounded, and I smiled broadly up into the fog and clouds, announcing to the strangers around me, “There it goes.” I knew exactly what that sound was above the thick layer of coastal weather. One morning two years into our marriage, I grimly announced to my sleeping husband that I had just heard the news Challenger had been “lost.” We turned on the television and watched in horror as they reported the discovery of debris and human remains scattered over miles of Texas terrain. Part of my childhood was now undeniably truly only a memory. I now watch every takeoff and landing when possible, which is easier these days now that this town provides more than two grainy television channels. I am predictably afflicted with chills, goosebumps, and watering eyes each time as I watch that magnificent, macho machine thrust upward on a bulging column of smoke, gas, and vapor. I watch in silent awe until there is no further news coverage offered, well after the crowds at the launch site are headed back to their cars and the shuttle is no longer visible. I’m simply addicted. This piece of history has seemingly always been entwined in the background of my life, no matter where I have been or what I have been doing. I consider my interest in a lot of things in my life such as this a precious gift from my parents, who took the time to drag two sleepy, confused kids out of their beds to create memories they likely wondered would be appreciated in the future.

I hope I will get to drag Erik out of bed someday at some ungodly hour of morning to cuddle with his old mom on the couch and watch this awesome spectacle, our sleepy faces aglow with the flickering light of our television. Maybe he would like that as much as I did as a kid. I will at least give him the opportunity to find out. I have to admit that I am really looking forward to that.


Blogger Lisa R said...

I used to wake up for all of them too and can tell you exactly where I was for the Challenger and Columbia messes...How terrible both those days were.

Funny you wrote this entry Chris and I were just talking about what our girls interest would be...
Right now Emma gets up early with Chris on Saturday to watch the F1 qualifying races. I wonder if Tatum is going to be her daddy's little race car know it all.

I'll let Emma and Tatum know that they can complain to Erik, since he'll be awake too :), when they are older because I like you well be waking everyone up for these earth moving events just like I was. It is a piece of history and I hope my girls are interested, but like you I plan to at least present the opportunity.

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Jean Frye said...

What a wonderufl way for a mom to begin a day-- hearing pleasant reminiscenses from her grownup child! You never know when you're making a memory-- good or bad. I'm glad we made some good ones. I sure have lots!

Love, Mom

8:46 AM  
Blogger Micah Marshall Photography said...


I am Aspen's sister-in-law, and I have been reading your blog, waiting to make a comment to say something meaningfull to you. I love to read your blog as I think you are an awesome writer. You bring so much depth to my day when I get a second to have some "mommy-time". Your blog today made me reflect on my childhood memories of my parents hopelessly trying to impact events like these onto our minds forever. How I appreciate that they did. I share your dream to impact my son the way our parents did with us. And I hope that someday my children will look to me and my husband as their "Heroes" as we do with our parents. Thank you for writing...

10:58 AM  
Blogger Aspen said...

While reading your post today, I couldn't stop myself from reminiscing about my childhood and all the important history events that we witnessed, possibly not even realizing how important it really was.

In this day in age of so many wars and fighting, a memory such as these today…still give me hope of peaceful days. Thank you for your vivid writing of those special memories. You have made all who read, think back to sweet innocent days of childhood.


11:39 AM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I am thoroughly impressed with your writing, Nancy. I was supposed to write my great American novel by the time I was 30 (ahem, a few years back now) but I hope you have that idea in your head as well.

How great you are passing on traditions.. I love having my kids do what I did. It ties everything together so nicely.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Shaena said...

You are an amazing writer. Wonder if a book deal is right around the corner? I would write more, but sleep deprivation is taking its toll and coffee/work is calling. I look forward to reading your blog every day. Eriks' milestones are an inspiration to me and what is important in life......We love you both dearly. Shaena & Sammy (she turns 7 months old in a few days!)

7:47 AM  

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