Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery buzzes DC

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

In case you live under a rock, or outside the Beltway, which appear the same to most people in D.C., let me be the first to tell you that the Space Shuttle Discovery flew over Washington, D.C. piggybacked on its 747 carrier.

If you don't follow me on twitter or had to work or aren't fascinated by every thought that flits through my tiny brain, which all appear the same to me, let me be the first to tell you that we went out to watch it.

We started off with the best intentions of leaving at 8.30 to get to our first choice of viewing area at 9. Unfortunately for us, half on Northern Virginia left at about 6.30 to get there, so by the time we left at 9 and arrived a 9.30, it was already overflowing. Once we were there, the next exit was to DC, so rather than double back toward home, which was our original fallback plan, we mushed on into DC.

Mush describes the traffic we hit pretty accurately.

We thought that we'd have to watch the flyover from our car, stuck on 14th Street. Mama suggested we roll back the sunroof and push the kids up through it so they could see it. However, we made it through in time to park at the Reagan Building, run over to the Mall and spread our blankets at the foot of the Washington Monument. As soon as our blankets were down, people started pointing north, toward a rather large speck in the sky.

By then I'd figured out that our power inverter in the car hadn't charged the battery for our real camera enough for it to take pictures, so I pulled out my iPhone and started...waiting for the camera app to load...then to switch to camera from video...then to focus...right! I was saying, I then started to take pictures.

As I did, applause, cheers and joyful whoops rang out across the Mall. Looking around, everyone was as delighted and amazed as my kids would be to walk into Dunkin Donuts with a $10 bill. In fact, 3B and Jewel were both that delighted and amazed to see the Space Shuttle as well.

For each of the passes overhead, the fascination and excitement continued. It seemed that for a long moment, DC paused. Everyone appeared to be outside, looking up at the sky, grinning. The Mall was not body-to-body, but it was crowded. Sidewalks were full of people going nowhere, standing and gazing skyward. Rooftops all around us crawled with the silhouettes of people who had emerged from their offices to stand under the sun and become part of the crowd far below.

And in that crowd, in between passes, there was plenty of snacking and running about. In fact, after the last pass, a two-year-old boy walking by asked if he could run around with us, so we ended up staying for another half hour or so, tearing around the lawn, playing tag, monster chase and laughing and having a good time.

OK, except that one time Jewel fell and bit her upper lip. That sucked. But five minutes later she was back at it with the rest of us boys.

By the time we got back to the car, I was getting pinged from work to post to our intranet for our employees the photos our photographers had taken of the flyover, so I spent the ride home monitoring email and having Mama send my replies on my iPhone. As soon as we arrived home, I sat straight down and didn't leave that chair until two and a half hours and one unrelated conference call later, I'd gotten everything on our intranet in order.

Perhaps that seems like a long time, but I was working at lightning speed...just with systems that are byzantine, finicky and sluggish. Fortunately for you, my colleague also posted them to our public site via flickr, so you can enjoy for yourself a little of what it looked and felt like here, even if you do live outside the known world Beltway.

(browse the set or view the slideshow)
Close up of the U.S. Capitol Dome and Shuttle Discovery

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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