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 wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
- John Gillespie Magee Jr.
When the Space Shuttle blew up in 1986, I was 13 years old and my life's dream was to be a fighter pilot and astronaut. I was in Social Studies and we were actually watching the launch. I can still remember, just as I can with regard to September 11, what I was wearing, where I was sitting, how I felt, what the sky looked like. Everything.
One of the memories that is seared into my brain is Ronald Reagan's speech in the following days where he quoted this poem. I was beside myself - this was already one of my favorite poems (along with "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost) and to hear the President quote it made a horrible time a little better.