"The loss was sudden and terrible, and for their families, the grief is heavy. Our nation shares in your sorrow and in your pride. And today we remember not only one moment of tragedy, but seven lives of great purpose and achievement."
With these words, President George W. Bush began his tribute to the heroic men and women who lost their lives aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle during the STS-107 mission.
In all of human endeavor, there is danger. It is not possible to completely avoid risk. Even if you choose to hide in your home, some danger still exists. That is not the answer, anyway. While every death does diminish us, many times they are also part of what makes humanity what it is.
To live is to risk, but there are those, particularly those who work for the betterment of mankind, who risk more than others. From the fire and police officials who entered two buildings struck by terrorists in New York to the seven members of the Columbia Space Shuttle crew, exploring the final frontier. Without risk, we remain in our caves, never daring to see what lies beyond our immediate sight. As President Bush said, "Some explorers do not return, and the loss settles unfairly on a few."
An old Chinese proverb says, "When you see what is right, have the courage to do it." The crew of Columbia all knew the dangers of human space flight, but chose to look at what they felt was the right thing to do. Perhaps Dr. Laurel Clark said it best. "To me, there's a lot of different things that we do during life that could potentially harm us, and I choose not to stop doing those things."
In his address at the Columbia memorial service, President Bush closed by saying, "They will always have an honored place in the memory of this country. And today I offer the respect and gratitude of the people of the United States."
I add the respect and gratitude of this American. The seven heroes who lost their lives aboard the Columbia will remain in my heart as an inspiration for the remainder of my days.