I didn't know their names prior to that accident. I am sorry to say that only a portion of what they were doing in space was known by me or my family, and that only because of some scanty news stories describing an experiment or two involving weightlessness.
In recent days we have seen profiles of these courageous men and women.
We were invited into the home of Ilan Ramon to meet the family of Israel's heroic astronaut. We experienced such joy and courage as we joined them sitting around the table talking with their dad prior to the mission.
We have learned about Kalpana Chawla, the only Indian woman to travel in space. We are inspired when we learn of her amazing aspirations and accomplishments in a country where 60 percent of the women are illiterate. She soared above limits to get a doctorate in aerospace engineering.
Commander Rick Husband expressed unfailing joy and vision that are so inspiring in a world where vision can take one to the stars, literally.
Pilot William McCool saw the world with the amazement usually only allowed an innocent child.
Payload Commander Michael Anderson, one of a handful of black astronauts, had a beautiful sense of purpose and devotion to discovery.
David Brown was not only a Navy captain but also a pilot and a doctor. His mission was unselfish and clear.
Laurel Clark didn't let fear or obstacles tell her what steps to take. Her courage and freedom never allowed her to quit because of potential harm. She lived life to the fullest.
A briefing given by NASA was especially moving. The love and support these "family members" have for each other is heartwarming. The president's speech to the nation held such deep compassion and love it made us feel as if we were members of one universal family embracing those who lost their lives.
The spiritual beauty and eternal goodness of the seven astronauts aboard the Columbia have become so much clearer to many of us. They are more alive now than ever to many people who have just begun to know them. These individuals will continue to live more and more in the hearts and minds of people all over the world.
My artistic dad called people "peep-holes." He said that they were views into the nature of God. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, insightfully describes God's creation in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" in the following way: "Man [including male and female] is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique. He is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas;...." Further on she says that man "reflects spiritually all that belongs to his Maker" (pg. 475).
Thinking of God as the sum total of all good qualities and of each of us as the individual expression of these qualities gives humanity direction and inspiration in the discovery of our true nature.
Thought opens, and our experience improves as an understanding of the source of all good that we call God comes into view. As we see more clearly that God is unchanging goodness and that we are the individual expression of that unending goodness, we can begin to glimpse the eternality of life.
Although these seven individuals won't be seen on earth as they were prior to this tragedy, they are being seen in a way that is both uplifting and lasting. They live and shine brightly through the Godlike qualities they expressed. They have given humanity views into the nature of God, who is the source of all that is good and beautiful, who is Life itself.
We both love and thank them because of their heroic gifts to mankind. They have inspired us and shown us more of our potential. Their lives have defined, in a degree, what it means to be children of one Father-Mother, one God. And in this greatest mission, they live.
The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love.