My sister had no interest. My mom thought I was crazy. And my dad, well he couldn’t miss work. My inquiry to have them travel along with me to fulfill a dream was practically a failure, so I took it upon myself to do what I had always wanted.
The fiery inferno caught my eye twelve years ago on a family vacation, rushing up and into the cloudless night sky of the unusually tenebrous Florida evening. The screaming fight my older sister and I had been halfway through no longer existed; just that small fiery speck.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
What I didn’t know was that over fifty miles away, shuttle Discovery was soaring toward infinity with six crew members onboard. Real people, unlike fictional characters I had read about before bedtime. Ten times better than the books, I was mesmerized! I promised myself that moment that I one day would experience the launch from up close. Years later, the wait had concluded. Shuttle Discovery’s last official launch on STS-133 was mine for the taking!
After an emergency room visit mere hours before my flight, I had thankfully made it to Florida where I was to pick up my Ford Focus car rental. But surprise, all that was left was a monstrosity of a minivan that even to this day I feel was too big for me to drive. But nonetheless, it got me to my destination: Celebration, Florida.
Here, I was transported to a simpler time. The town itself was constructed with the old Floridian charm: bright colors, shutters on the houses, palm trees every which way, and even the vintage automobiles you would see in the 1950s. Everyone was outside, enjoying life and conversing like old friends. I soon reached the Bohemian Hotel, a gem right on a picturesque lake. With the charm of my surroundings in my mind, I slept very peacefully.
Morning arrived. Hopping in the van, I made the forty mile trek down the interstate to catch the sunrise from Lori Wilson Park in Cocoa Beach. A public park, it exuded with beauty: waves crashing, a blaring sun, the sound of seagulls, and the Atlantic at my feet. I was never so calm. But the time came and I left to fulfill my dream.
On NASA property and through multiple checkpoints, I took a position along a river bank where an alligator stared me down with what I took as jealousy. I deserved to be envied, I thought. I had gone through so much to set this up and hundreds of overtime hours. Soon, the astronauts were suited and ready for Discovery, beckoning in the distance.
Complete silence, smoke, and then a rumble. The famous words: "Liftoff of Shuttle Discovery" blared through the sky. My eyes dilated from the light. The repercussions and shock wave sensations shot right through us all. The sounds hit me like hundreds of fireworks exploding at once.The only thing louder was my heart, beating with such adrenaline, such excitement, and such bliss that I had finally accomplished what I so dearly wanted most. A timeless and unforgettable moment, it was everything I had hoped for and more.
Leaving Cape Canaveral, five hours of traffic from over 50,000 spectators that attributed to me missing all four possible flights home and spending the night in Terminal A of Orlando International Airport couldn’t alter my blissful mood. Discovery was a beacon of inspiration, making me believe in our country and my generation’s potential. With a smile on my face, I congratulated Discovery and its crew, whose mission was accomplished in more ways than they’ll ever know.
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