Today marks the end of an era in American history. There have been very few times I can remember having my breath taken away and mentally taking a step back, losing all thought. This afternoon when I read the news that American Hero John Glenn has passed away, exactly that happened. I physically felt like I had taken a punch.
John Glenn could stand the test of time for a variety of things:
-War Hero as a pilot for the United States during World War II and the Korean War.
-First American to orbit the Earth, when on February 20, 1962 he catapulted America back into the Space Race with the USSR.
-Longtime Senator from the state of Ohio
-Being the oldest person ever to fly in space at the age of 77 years old!
But when you take all of those things together, plus his demeanor and devotion to his family and country you have a true American Hero.
I can honestly say that I am a pilot, flight instructor and work in airport management because of John Glenn. This is really why I was so impacted by the news of today.
Many years ago when my childhood revolved around hockey and the Boston Bruins I remember a summer day when I was getting my stuff together to head out and play street hockey with the neighborhood kids. I was walking thought the “den” or TV room and found my father watching television in the middle of the day, a rarity (I would come to realize later). I asked to go out an play hockey with my buddies and he said I could go, but I should really watch this program with him. The television show was about the early astronaut programs.
Had my father known at the time that this was the beginning of planting a seed that would cost him thousands of dollars for my initial flight training, he probably wouldn’t have said a word, but I’m glad he did…
I watched the program with him and then asked question after question. I was totally engrossed in the early space missions, trying to learn everything I could about early space flight. Movies like “The Right Stuff” were my favorite and I spent countless hours researching the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The came Apollo 13 and October Sky!
I never met John Glenn, but I did see him once. In the mid-1990’s following the dedication of the Korean monument in Washington D.C. I was in a crowd with my family to watch President Clinton go by in his motorcade, you can imagine my shock when across the way, John Glenn passed by the group.
I don’t remember ever wanting to be an astronaut, but I remember knowing they were all pilots and that made me want to learn to fly. In 1997, I remember watching the laugh of STS-95, where John Glenn became the oldest man in space. A few days later I was late for a hockey game because I wanted to watch the shuttle land in Cape Canaveral. I’d hazard to guess that for 6 or 7 straight years in grade school I wrote a book report on John Glenn’s autobiography.
Just a few years later in 2000, my father took me to the local airport for my first flight lesson and I’ve been hooked on flying ever since!
I remained interested in the space programs, and John Glenn was my favorite of the bunch. In high school one of my history teachers who shared my interest in all things NASA, upon learning of my interest presented me with an autographed picture of John Glenn. Ever since I have kept the framed picture on prominent display in my home.
After my father, who will always be, in my mind, the example of a great person, John Glenn would probably be the only other person I’ve thought of as worthy enough to follow their example.
Today the World lost a great person and America lost a hero.
Godspeed, John Glenn.
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9