Posts Tagged ‘Sally Ride’

I’ve written posts this week mentioning Sally Ride and also my son, Tony.  Today, I’ll tell you a story combining the two.

The summer before Tony was to go to fifth grade, he kept saying all summer that he didn’t want to get Mrs. Kirby for a teacher.  He would take anyone but her.  I asked him why and he said because of the biography project he required.  Apparently, everyone at the school knew that each year Mrs. Kirby’s class was required to research someone and then give an oral report on the person…in costume.  Each year she alternated between female and male personalities that had to be reported on.  The year Tony was entering fifth grade, everyone in the class would have to report on a woman personality and in their oral report, they would have to dress in costume!  So all summer long he kept hoping for a teacher other than Mrs. Kirby, although  were it not for that one project, he would actually like to be in her class.

The week before school began, we got the classroom assignments and Tony had been assigned to Mrs. Kirby’s class.  He asked if I could get him into another class.  He knew I had a lot of pull after being involved in the PTA for the previous five years and he was sure that if I asked the principal, she would switch teachers.  I wasn’t so sure and I really didn’t want to set a precedent for getting him out of things that were not “desirable” so I said I couldn’t do it.  I’m not sure he understood it but he accepted it. 

All year long he kept trying to think of a way to get out of the project.  I was not going to help him get out of it, either.  He knew that.  When it came time to sign up for their biography project, I wondered who he would sign up for.  He wasn’t saying.  He did say that there could be no duplicates so if he didn’t get to sign up right away, someone else might sign up for his first choice.  When I picked him up on the day he had to sign up, he had an ear to ear smile.  I asked him who he was reporting on and he said, “Sally Ride.”  He would dress as an astronaut and would wear an astronaut’s helmet!  Apparently, he was the envy of all the boys who had failed to think of something so clever!

He gathered a lot of information on Sally ride but a lot of it was old information as it had been about 11 or 12 years since her space shuttle voyage.  We kind of brainstormed and I helped him look online, but of course in those days there wasn’t as much online as there is today.  Then Tony asked if I could call Stanford.  He knew Sally Ride had gone to Stanford and was affiliated with the university and I had attended Stanford so he figured I might be able to get to her.  That was one thing I figured I could do.  I knew that there were many kids in his class whose parents were in the movie industry and were getting special stuff for their kids from actors and directors and other film industry personalities so I figured I could make a few phone calls.  Stanford gave me her direct line in her office at UCSD.  Although she was out of the country when I called, her office was very helpful and in a couple of weeks, Tony received a packet of fresh information on Sally Ride and on some of her projects.  And an autographed to him photo along with a hand written note from Sally Ride, wishing him luck with his project and inviting him to contact her again for more info if needed!

Pretty awesome that she would take the time to do this for a fifth grader.  And pretty awesome that my son, even in fifth grade, was clever enough to think of a way to fulfill the requirements of this project without a lot of embarrassment to him!

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We’ve recently lost a lot of celebrities and while their passing is sad, most of them been quite elderly and had lived a long, rewarding life.  Yesterday came word of another loss.  This one is different.  This one hit me.  Hit me hard.  Sally Ride is gone.

She was a shining star for a lot of us, not just for women, but for a lot of us who grew up in that era of space exploration and space travel.  I remember being home, watching on TV when JFK announced our mission to the moon.  I remember watching  John Glenn before and after his first space venture.  I remember the day Neil Armstrong took that first step on the moon.  I remember the first space shuttle voyage.  I remember the trip Sally Ride took on the Challenger in 1983, becoming the first American woman and the youngest ever American space traveler.  I remember the hallmarks of the space program.  I lived through them. 

Sally Ride was not only a part of the space program but she was also a symbol of youth and of women reaching beyond the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.  What a role model she was.  How many young girls did she inspire to go beyond the boundaries to reach for their dream?  In how many youngsters, both male and female, did she light that spark to enter the world of science and of the world beyond this one we know?

I will miss her.  I will miss knowing that somewhere on this earth, walks the likes of such an inspiring woman.  I will miss having one less awe inspiring person on this earth.

This one hurts.

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