Saturday, February 1, 2003

When I lived in Florida, there was a patch of road between Bushnell and Wildwood that I used to drive regularly. Every twist and turn of that road became numbingly familiar, and every permanent roadside rummage sale a landmark.

One of the businesses along that road was a body repair operation, and for some reason, for their signage, they had the burned-out shell of a van posted high on a pillar. Every time I would drive by, I would contemplate this, wondering why the business thought this was a good advertisement, wondering how they got it up there.

Until one day, the obvious hit me. People had been in this miserable wreckage once. They were hurt and perhaps even died, judging from the condition of the vehicle. I couldn't imagine that someone would hoist the site of a death up on a pillar and use it for advertising, but you never know. But the possibility burrowed into my head and would not leave, and re-emerged every time I drove past: Someone died in there.

Which is why the constant replaying of the breakup of the Columbia is so particularly horrible and macabre. The anchors use their pens to circle the parts breaking off, saying triumphantly, "See - there's a puff of smoke," when perhaps, all they should be saying, or better, all they should be letting us think as they fall silent is Some people died in there.

I am also reminded of the term that used to be used in aviation in such circumstances, I believe. I first heard it when golfer Payne Stewart's plane went haywire.. Five souls on board... I remember hearing.

Seven Souls On Board...all lost.

But of course, we pray that lost is not, in God's time, what they are.

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