The recent trips that astronaut Dan Tani has made to his hometown of Lombard serve as a reminder of how much inspiration we continue to find in individuals who make incredible journeys.
The recent trips that astronaut Dan Tani has made to his hometown of Lombard, Ill., serve as a reminder of how much inspiration we continue to find in individuals who make incredible journeys.
From late October to late February, Tani lived aboard the International Space Station. He previously had traveled to the Space Station in 2001.
During his recent mission, Tani learned that his mother, Rose, was killed when her car was struck by a freight train in mid-December. He would not be able to grieve with family and friends back on Earth for another two months.
Tani visited his alma mater, Glenbard East High School, in April and received a hero’s welcome. He also made a presentation Aug. 20 at Lombard Village Hall where he thanked village officials and staff members for everything they did for his family at the time of his mother’s death.
I cannot imagine losing a parent in such a tragic manner — and then being that isolated from loved ones for so long. To carry on with all the important work he had left to do aboard the Space Station is beyond comprehension. Obviously, NASA knows what it’s doing by selecting people with that kind of courage and determination for its missions.
Tani’s return to Lombard brought to mind another welcome home given a Chicago-area astronaut, Dr. Mae Jemison. She attended Morgan Park High School on the city’s far South Side where I grew up. One of my sisters attended a class with the future astronaut at Morgan Park, although she didn't know Jemison personally.
Jemison was the first black woman to travel to space. She was treated like a rock star when she came back to Morgan Park after her 1992 Space Shuttle mission.
It’s a joy to see young people become so excited to be in the presence of people who have achieved something more extraordinary than simply releasing a new CD. The connection that Tani and Jemison maintain with their neighborhoods will definitely inspire the next generation of leaders, perhaps some from their own schools.
We should never take intellectual curiosity for granted because it might be displayed by a student destined for greatness. And we might need to start saying that rock stars are treated like astronauts instead of the other way around.
Jerry Moore is a news editor with Suburban Life Publications and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog, Suburban Shoutout, can be found at www.mysuburbanlife.com.