Everyone is talking about the huge tragedy that happened today, about how we lost 7 heroes and how it's a national - nay, an international - tragedy. The only problem with that?
Sure, it's a terrible thing. And sure, the people on the shuttle were brave, were explorers and broke boundaries and furthered science. But in the end, they were just 7 individuals. They were following their dream, and a dream that they knew was risky and could potentially end up with their deaths. Most of the time, it doesn't. This time, it did.
The only tragedy is how so many people die every day in so many ways, and how they're ignored for a few astronauts. In the grand scheme of things, what did those 7 people do that earned them the title of hero? What, they flew a shuttle? They floated? They ate astronaut ice cream? What was it? Was it the fact that they were some of the lucky few who get a chance to actually follow their dream through to completion? What was it?
They didn't deserve the title of hero any more than the people who worked in the World Trade Center did - or any less. They died doing their jobs, and doing jobs that weren't particularly heroic to start off with. I feel sorry for their deaths, and I feel for their families and coworkers and friends, and I worry about NASA and our space program - but today was not a tragedy worth every station showing nothing but shuttle footage all day, today was not a day worth bowing our heads in silence over, today there were not 7 heroes made.
Today, 7 people died pursuing a dream, doing what they wanted to do. Today, people died of starvation. Of abuse. Of murder. People died in conflict, in battle. Fighting for what they believe in. Senselessly. Because they got in the way. People died all over the world today, for as many reasons as there were deaths, and they were all worth mourning over, all worth a moment of silence. By deifying those astronauts you render the deaths of everyone else who died worthless, and that's not right. A moment of silence for them? Take a moment of silence to reflect every day about the people who have died that day, for so many different reasons, in so many different ways. That's all, and that's everything.