"The Vehicle Has Exploded"
By Donna Bahret Moutier

“The vehicle has exploded!”
And the words sped me toward a radio.
My co-workers and I huddled together,
Eyes taut on the radio's face.

The announcer's words careened off of us
In echoing pings of disbelief and pain.
And the shock, like Novocain,
Buffered us as further bits of lethal information
Began seeping in.

Grief accumulated over the hours, the days.
Like a too trite script,
The scene unfolded on the screen
But we could not walk out on the ending.

Yesterday I cried
As I watched her parents replay their mutual bewilderment;
As they added a hopeless question mark to those words
“the vehicle has exploded”.

Today I wept in sorrow
As I imagined the family's unrelenting anguish.

And I am angry that routine had quelled my anxieties about such flight;
That the departure from routine in choosing her had made me excited about
This flight.
She was the woman, mother, teacher
That I might have become but hadn't.
In the interviews she walked with MY spirit, MY guts
And now I watched her walk, grinning,
To her death.

And the world watched as she and six extraordinary others,
Heroes now,
Exploded in a flaring, burning, ironically beautiful incandescence;
A slow-moving dance into oblivion,
With the choreography obscenely repeated
Over and over and over again.

With Kennedy we lost a father,
With her a mother.
And the children of today who did not live
Through that chilling November remembrance
Can now claim their share of hot world-grief,
Of that assassination on the senses of all,
That allows them, too, to say
“I was...here...when it happened”.

Good disappeared in this tragedy
But maybe, this time,
For good reason.

We, the earthbound, dreamed through them,
As they, so much more than we,
Were able to become their own dreams.

We, the living, died with them,
As they, just as vulnerable as we,
Could not complete their journey
This time.



Donna's Comments:
I've been very aware of the 15th anniversary of
the space shuttle disaster coming up and I wanted to share a
poem I wrote about it in 1986. It just flowed out of me the
day after the accident. I'm not saying its a good poem
but it made my father, a very tough guy, cry...


Updated: 20 January 2001