I wrote this poem 14 years ago to commemorate the lost of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew; today, the anniversary of the disaster, seems a good time to share it with you.
Columba, by the way, is a constellation representing a dove; opinions vary on whether it is Noah’s dove, or if it is the dove sent out by the Argonauts to help them pass safely between the Symplegades (the Clashing Rocks) at the mouth of the Black Sea. Either way, I drew a connection between the protective, guiding light of Columba and the shuttle with a similar name.
On the launch pad, glittering white,
A symbol of America’s might,
She was indeed an awesome sight,
The Space Shuttle Columbia.
Above the shuttle, circling high,
Columba the dove did fly.
A spirit of peace in the sapphire sky,
Waiting silently for her friend.
Onboard, the seven bright eyed crew:
Five Americans, an Indian and a Jew,
Joined in hope and friendship new,
Sent in peace for all mankind.
At mission control, excitement grew
As Columbia spread her wings and flew,
Leaping up so bold and true,
Surging up into the blue.
Columba the gentle dove
Joined them in their flight.
Orbiting the Earth at incredible speeds
Throughout the endless night.
Floating free inside their craft,
The astronauts’ dreams came true;
Inspiring children on the ground,
Exploring frontiers new.
For sixteen days and nights they flew
Together, side by side.
Columba watched protectively
As Columbia did glide.
Their final day in space was spent,
The time had come to make descent.
A message to the Earth they sent,
“Do we have to go back now?”
People gathered on the ground
To hear the sonic booms resound
As, at many times the speed of sound,
They attempted to come home.
Texan heads to the sky were turned
To see the ship pass by,
But disaster struck and all they saw
Was debris in the sky.
Re-entry hadn’t gone as planned,
The space shuttle had failed to land.
Destined never to return,
In the air the shuttle burned.
Columba in her mercy cried
To see that her young friends had died.
She did what she could to guide
Their souls to eternal rest.
Tonight look up, and you may spy
Seven new stars in the sky.
Set in heaven with respect and love,
Watched over by a faithful dove.
(God speed, Columbia)
Michelle Rosenthal, February 9th 2003