Friday, January 27, 2012

This day - and tomorrow - in history ...

Everyone has their routine stops - both actual and virtual - that they make in the course of the day. For me, the latter include a "This Day in History" feature prepared by the New York Times.

During TODAY's stop I learned of a number of significant events, including one that had a special added note, due to an event that will appear on the feature TOMORROW.

On January 27, 1967, Astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire that swept through their capsule during a test aboard their Apollo I spacecraft, at Cape Kennedy, Florida. HERE is the NYT's coverage of that story. Almost 45 years ago, but I still remember the news reports, and the heartbreak felt by those of us who were growing-up with America's space program, and who had idolized our astronauts from the first days of the Mercury mission. Apollo 1 was the launch of a new mission in that program, and the first step on that final leg of the journey that began with President Kennedy's call for "a great new American enterprise ... of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

Eventually, our astronauts would reach the moon (and would leave an Apollo 1 patch at one of the landing sites), but the space program would continue, with new triumphs, and new tragedies ... one of which we'll mark tomorrow. On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after liftoff from Cape Kennedy, Florida, killing all seven of its crew members. HERE is the NYT's coverage of THAT story. I remember that day, too. I was substitute teaching in a Dallas high school, when news of the explosion began circulating. Some of my students wondered what the fuss was about. Remember, teacher Christa McAuliffe was a member of that crew, and classrooms of students across the country following the launch. The teacher who was going door-to-door with the news told me that students at McAuliffe's own school had been sent home following the accident. "Oh, man," said one of my students. "I wish it'd been one of our teachers. Then WE could be going home" ... and some of you wonder why people with such an 'easy' job as teaching, burn-out.

Anyway, that's an interesting coincidence I noticed during one of my regular, virtual stops today. It reminded me that the 'space race' brought with it all the elements that people look for in a race, the challenge and the excitement, the triumph and the tragedy. I still like to follow developments in space programs - ours, and those of other nations ... though I do wonder how much will be left of our own program in the near future. And that's a shame, considering the sacrifices some have made as part of that program. My thoughts? ... seventy years ago, someone expressed them far better than I ever could.

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,

I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

- John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On This Day ...

Did you know that, on this day in 1861, Louisiana seceded from the United States of America? Just another reminder that this year finds the sesquicentennial observance/celebration/whatever of the Civil War - one of our nation's defining moments - well underway.

In the year that followed that day in Louisiana, there was much of note that happened ... more states seceded from the Union; Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States; secessionist talk became open rebellion; Fort Sumter was attacked; there was the First Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas, take your pick); the legend of "Stonewall" Jackson was born; and much, much more.

I find myself wondering why we don't read or hear more about it. Is it, perhaps, because it is no longer a part of our living memory? As terrible as that conflict was, there are no longer among us - as would be the case for '9/11' - those who can say, "I remember." Maybe ... maybe not. Whatever the case, couldn't we trim just a couple of minutes away from Demi Moore's ambulance call, the umpteenth replay of the more ridiculous Super Bowl minutia, or the latest 'nyah-nyahs' in the mini-civil war between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and devote it to what was going on in our nation 150 years ago, and what it means for us today?

I'll do my part, and try to post on this more over the year ahead ... and I look forward to reading what you have to say about that conflict. Be warned, though ... I AM a dang Yankee from back-east, and I think the 'good guys' won the Civil War. So we may have to agree to disagree on some points.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hey ... I know that guy!

I'd like to offer a shout out - hat tip, kudos, whatever - to Cindeka Nealy, a staff photographer for the Midland Reporter-Telegram, who got some MAJOR exposure today, placing not one - but three photos on, including one on the website's home page, above the fold. Nealy's photos accompanied an staff report (with contributions from the MRT) about Monday's record-setting snowfall in West Texas.

"Where's winter," the report asks. "If you're in the lower 48 states you might try Midland, Texas. At some 20 inches so far this season -- more than half of that dumped on Monday alone -- it's got more snow than most U.S. cities much farther north."
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the report.

Monday, January 02, 2012

In Memoriam: John Hyde

The new year is less than 48 hours old, and already our community is lessened - substantially. It was with great sadness that I visited just now, to read that "Judge John Hyde passed away this afternoon after a more than two-year battle with cancer."

Sadness, yes ... but not shock. Judge Hyde's ongoing battle with cancer has been common knowledge - and an inspiration! - to the community. He was the focus of frequent and fervent prayers for 'wholeness and healing.' And even as we celebrated his time among us, we knew deep down that time might not continue as long as we would like. Our prayers, now, are with Judge Hyde's family ... his wife Sharon, his children and his grandchildren, and with all those who are touched by his passing.

My first visit with Judge Hyde was more than twenty years ago, and it was a typical encounter. It was the late 80s, the 'bust' was well underway, and I had been laid-off from KMID-TV/Big 2. While I was pursuing a variety of freelance media jobs, I was also enrolled at Midland College for job-retraining, taking courses towards a paralegal certificate. They were some good courses, but the best was a course that had me downtown at the courthouse, student-clerking for the state district courts. I was assigned to Judge Hyde's 238th Distrct Court.

Under his tutelage, I found myself gaining first-hand knowledge and experience of every aspect of our court system. With him, there was no such thing as a menial task ... everything I did, even fetching stacks of law books or answering phones, served a purpose. I eventually re-entered the journalism business full-time, and did not make the move to professional paralegal. Yet the knowledge, the experience and the appreciation I gained for law enforcement and the court system during that process made a me a better journalist ... like I said, a typical encounter with Judge Hyde.

My last visit with Judge Hyde was less than two months ago, and it was a typical encounter. He had just made a presentation during the early service at First Prez-Midland, highlighting dates in the church's history, and it's contributions to the community, the country and the world. As many of you know, he not only had a keen interest in history, but also a knack for research, and a wonderful ability for presentation, sharing the results of his research with others in a manner that informed and stimulated.

During the fellowship time that followed the early service, I was part of a three-way chat with Judge Hyde and MPD Deputy Chief Jeff Darr, that covered not only history, but also current events in the Tall City, cause-and-effect, where we are and where we're going. It was all-too-short a visit, but I left it encouraged and better-informed ... like I said, a typical encounter with Judge Hyde.

According to Gustave Flaubert, "a friend who dies, it's something of you who dies." With the passing of John Hyde, that is something we could all say today.

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