Milan, Ohio is a curious small town with a spirit of wanderlust.
In the 19th century, farmers could watch a ship sail along the field. At least that’s how it looked. In reality, the ship floated down a canal, the state’s deepest, allowing it to reach Lake Erie.
On November 26th, 2019, farmers watched a space capsule travel on the field’s horizon. In reality, it was being carried to NASA’s John Glenn Research Center for rigorous testing at their Plum Brook Station, located north of us. Orion will undertake several missions, one carrying the first female astronaut to the moon.
We knew the spacecraft was coming–north from the Mansfield airport and right up our Main Street, making a sharp left turn at the town square. Preparations took months.
Crews removed road signs, lifted power lines, cut tree limbs, and raised traffic lights. The entourage traveled with a lighted band of law enforcement cars, numerous vans, and three planes and a helicopter buzzed overhead.
Cliff noted two signs reporting “1.4 Explosives.” I don’t know the quantitative power involved, but I figure one false bump could vaporize Ohio. (Of course I couldn’t help wondering how many Secret Service agents and spies mingled among us.) Still, we lined the streets, elbow-to-elbow with the press. Everyone was a photojournalist, and in a small town like Milan, everyone got a front row seat.
Space technology aside, here’s the thing I noticed. No one said a word about political parties or presidential elections. That is no small thing in the current fractured society. For an hour, we were all Americans with no one more patriotic than the other. That rarely happens anymore.
Here’s another significant thing about that day. Edison Elementary, on Main St., let its students line the sidewalks to witness the event. I’d bet those pre-K kids had no idea what they were seeing. The actual capsule looked like a huge sea creature, complete with red oversize-load flags, flapping like fins. Told that it was headed toward Sandusky, they surely thought it would be released in Lake Erie. The courageous imaginations of children find answers to puzzles.
And Milan, Ohio knows something about that.
Thomas A. Edison, America’s greatest inventor, was born here in 1847 and grew up watching things come and go. Ships sailing to and from the docks. Wagon trains headed West. Messages clicking across telegraph wires. Even as a boy in this town, he bravely set about solving problems at hand with whatever he could find.
Somewhere in that line of students, stands a determined child who watches that cavalcade rolling down Main St. and sees far beyond us into the future.
It’s in the air here.