One of the heroes of my childhood is gone. John Glenn passed away today. To understand my grief, you need to understand where I grew up. I was born and raised in a small beach town called Cocoa Beach. Many of you may know where this is because of I Dream of Jeannie. If you don’t, then geographically you should know that my town is adjacent to Cape Canaveral. My town exists because of the space program.
My parents moved to Cocoa Beach in the 1960s and they grew up watching rockets take men into space and then to the moon. I grew up with my Father and Stepmother (and half the parents of friends) working at the Kennedy Space Center helping to launch the Shuttle.
Rockets and shuttles launching from Cape Canaveral is a part of my childhood. You'd hear the rumble and rush outside to watch the vehicle lift itself into space. The space program is a part of my family’s history.
My Grandfather was the principal of Cocoa Beach Elementary for many years. Along the way, he talked people into putting the school’s American flag in the Freedom 7 capsule as it made its way into space. The flag came back to the school and the school was renamed Freedom 7. That flag? It’s now in the museum at the KSC Visitor’s Complex. I realize that John Glenn did not actually pilot Freedom 7, he went to space on Frienship 7. The entire Mercury team helped shaped my family's lives and the lives of countless others.
When John Glenn went back into space in 1998? I watched the shuttle carry him into space and I was there to watch him in the parade through town when he came back. If I were back home, I’d include the wonderful picture we have of my grandparents standing with him after the parade.
John Glenn represented so much to all of us. His legacy within the Space Program forward helped propel my family forward in its own way. He taught us to be brave, to explore and learn, to push boundaries, and practice accountability. Without his willingness (and that of the other original astronauts) to put his life on the line so that the human race could expand their consciousness, I truly believe we would not have half the innovation we have today. He was a pioneer and a great man. He will be missed.