The pretty blonde lady on WFTV Channel 9 said “Shuttle Launch at 10 pm Eastern” and here we are. Bedtimes postponed. Anticipation is the glue which mends us tonight, creed, tongue, race, religion. There are moments such as this humid Florida night, warm like the embrace of a mother, dark like the embrace of a shadow. Tonight, a young teen will experience thousands of years of human intellectual toil celebrated in an instant.
Being near the Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral to the older people) was my favorite aspect of Cocoa, where a unique blend of cultures meets at a crossroads. “Snow birds”, complete with palm tree shirts and straw hats, ask directions from Latinos who have traversed the ocean to take part in our own little version of the American dream. Only here does the Spanish influenced stucco styling of Florida homes with their rough, hard, yet fragile feel, or the Folk tunes which hum through the air of historic Cocoa Village, clash with the modern scene of extensive shopping malls and boisterous amusement parks. Of course, these things pale in comparison to the most marvelous feature, our gem, the Launch Pad, a true symbol of human endeavor.
Eager to dream, here we are at 9:55 mingling, kids playing around and causing ruckus while mothers joke about the frustrations of their duty. Fathers discuss sports, cars and the like; Coronas in hand of course. You would think this was a normal community get-together until it happens. Suddenly, a distant light pierces the night sky and all go silent. It is not so dark anymore but it sure does feel warmer. I stand bewildered, my eyes locked on the fireball, this night-sun, screaming away from the now glowing Banana River and roaring as it rises towards the heavens and stealing our admiration along with it. At this moment, our future doesn’t seem so bleak. Our little slice of humanity can put aside our problems, if just for this night, and the world stops spinning.