The horrible news this morning of the Columbia Shuttle disaster brings this nation, and many across the world, to grieve. To see this happen again is devastating. Too much so.

My grief today is deep. My family is very close to the NASA Space Program. I was born on the Florida coast, only a few miles north of Cape Canaveral. For over 30 years, my Mother and Grandmother worked for NASA at the Cape — today my Brother is an electrician working on the Shuttle missions. He and I grew up in a community where everyone was somehow connected to the Lunar Missions, the Space Shuttles; and we all knew the astronauts as heroes.

We shared more than a common history and civic pride; it was more like sharing a great dream and passion about the future of Mankind.

On January 28, 1986, I was in fourth period History class at my high school. None of us were working on our lessons, instead we watched the Space Shuttle Challenger flying high above, right outside our window. I saw the craft explode with my own eyes, right in the sky above me. We heard screams and crying out in the halls. Teachers and kids were running to the Library, to see the news broadcast on the television. We were all shattered.

I never, ever wanted to see that again. But now the worst has happened.

Today, all seven astronauts are gone. Their spouses and children were waiting for them to come home, waiting on the runway, for they were only 15 minutes away from landing.

I believe bravery is measured by a person taking great risk for some thing or cause that is greater than himself. Tolkien teaches us that, surely, in the struggle of Frodo and his companions.

But it is truly brave to seek out and reach for an ideal — a dream that goes beyond all of us — and to give your life for it. The President said they pursued a “high and noble calling.” To me, those pilots and astronauts in the Space Program are the greatest adventurers. Only their passion takes them up so high. How else can we learn about Mankind’s future out there, without them?

I ask all of you to remember them and the families who are now bereft. As an American, I never forget how proud I am of our soldiers, firefighters and law enforcement, who are so brave in the face of death. But when you speak of the astronauts…. their bravery is unique. They bring us the hope and promise of the future; and it cannot truly be measured.

The Staff and contributors of extend their sympathies to all who suffered loss today, especially to the families of Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, William McCool, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon.