Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Final Shuttle Launch

Terry and I were startled awake by the clock alarm at 4am. We stumbled about getting ready to go to the space coast to see the Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. We planned to go to Space View Park which is right across the Saint John's river directly across from Launch Complex 39. It is as close as you can get to a launch without being in the press section. I drove east on the Beach Line Expressway while Terry snoozed. In the last few miles I asked her to help navigate me to the park. Suddenly there was traffic. Parking spaces were being sold for $20 to $30 dollars. We wandered the back streets until I found a spot on a dead end street next to a dumpster. We walked the five or so blocks to the park. The streets were crowded with families carting their picnic lunches. A homeless man snarled, "Ya'll look like a bunch of cockroaches lookin' for a scrap of bread." I didn't see that. People were excited, anticipating a historic launch.

The entrance to Space View Park was packed with news vans. The park was full of tents from people who had camped out overnight. Terry tried to walk straight out to the pier but we reached a point where we could walk no further. We backtracked a bit and I found a cement ledge to sit on and I began my first sketch. A family lounged in their camping chairs. People kept packing in. The woman behind me had a lanyard on that said she was with a tweet-up group. I asked if the tweeters were all together. She said they were scattered throughout the park. Terry forced her way out to the edge of the park overlooking the river to the north.

When I joined Terry, I could see that the bridge over the river was packed with people. Every square inch of shoreline was also packed with people. In Space View park everyone sat facing the launch pad which was visible to the eye if you knew where to look. I sat facing the crowd and started a second sketch. There were still several hours until the launch. A young couple played cards. Others read or looked at their cell phones. Some slept. There was no Internet or texting since the cell tower couldn't handle all the signals. People were left having to engage in conversations and other analog forms of diversion. A man right behind Terry talked endlessly in a monotone about the boring minutia of his job to his buddy. Terry had to read aloud to concentrate on her book. We had some apples to munch on and some humus. I was content, being able to sketch people up close and personal.

A father and son were casting a net, fishing in the river beside us. The water was just up to their knees. Soon other people waded out into the water. A crowd formed. Even photographers set up their tripods in the rivers muddy bottom waiting for the launch...

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