One of Michael's Bucket List for our trip was to see a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
When we woke up in the morning we figured, eh, why not, and paid for another night at Crystal Lake RV Park, then piled into the car for a drive to the National Seashore where we joined hundreds of other families, photographers, couples, friends, and single people to hike over a mile down the beach to watch a launch live.
I admit I felt a little thrill as we passed the signs for the Kennedy Space Center: something I'd always heard about but never seen. Not in real life. Not outside of my TV screen.
To be honest, I hadn't seen a launch of any kind since I witnessed the tragedy of The Challenger in first grade. Our teacher had turned on the television and tuned to the appropriate channel, and a classroom full of six and seven year olds were awestruck as the spacecraft exploded before our eyes.
I don't remember what our teacher did about it.
I just remember it happened.
Over and over.
You couldn't turn away. You couldn't get away.
It was there burned into your mind.
Playing over and over.
And later that year there was a photograph of the Challenger crew, including the famed teacher - who we'd read about diligently before the launch in our well-worn Weekly Readers - aligned at eye level for my six year old body in the hallway between our classroom and the cafeteria.
We passed the crew every day.
And I just kept seeing the explosion.
But this was a rocket.
There were no people inside.
Just a rocket.
And it was okay to feel excitement and not fear.
The hike over the sand was pretty brutal.
The kids didn't really understand what we were hiking for. They just wanted to play in the ocean.
Yet we dragged them along. It's going to be worth it. And we found a place to park our butts and our stuff for the duration.
The launch was scheduled for sometime between 1:38 and 3:30 PM EST.
We parked our chairs as close to the fence as we could get and broke out the foodstuffs.
The kids got to play awhile in the surf... I even got to see a shark (bullshark, about three feet long, flopping in the surf and then swimming for its life back out to see) while we waited, sometimes impatiently, for the big moment.
We were not alone.
And suddenly photographers were standing up.
People "in the know" were moving closer to the fence.
And a woman in the crowd began counting down "30, 29, 28..."
Many of us joined in.
Because it's a rocket launch.
And everyone is suddenly a child again. It's okay to feel WONDER.