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RIP Sally Ride

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Up until 3rd grade, I wasn't a very good student. In 1st grade, because I daydreamed during the subtraction lesson, I didn't know how to do my homework. I randomly filled in numbers. I got every answer wrong except for 1. My teacher pulled me aside after class, and tried to assess whether I was mentally impaired. Apparently convinced I was not, she showed me how to do the lesson again, and made me redo it. My new grading was 29/30.

I continued to dawdle along. In 3rd grade, there were two events that spurred me into academic excellence. One, I got into an argument with a boy who told me girls could never be as good at math as boys. Even at that age, I found it completely absurd that differences between boys and girls would have anything to do with computational abilities. It was a sad schoolyard tale because I had a crush on him until then. He became the person I hated most.

The second event was America's first woman astronaut, Sally Ride.

It is amazing how a person whom I never met has so deeply influenced my life.

I was born in the 70s. A generation of women before me marched and fought for a fair chance at school, work, pay, and who they wanted to be. They fought for future generations. They fought for me.

In 1983 just before school let out for summer break, they pulled us elementary school kids into the gymnasium so we could watch the Space Shuttle Challenger fly into space. In those days, shuttle launches were always widely celebrated, but this one all anyone could talk about was Sally Ride.

I can still remember the beaming pride, especially among the girls. A woman physicist was an astronaut. Maybe I could be anything I wanted to be.

That was the American dream, wasn't it? It's not who you were born to or your gender, the color of your skin, but what you can do. If you work hard and apply yourself, you could go beyond the sky and into the stars.

That summer when we went home, all I could think of was space and astronauts. My dad bought me "Charlie Brown's Second Super Book of Questions and Answers about Earth and Space". Snoopy and Woodstock were on the cover with astronaut helmets. I read the book from cover to cover, over and over, and I wanted more.

My dad was an airplane mechanic in the Air Force, and he was thrilled with my new interest in the sciences. He'd take me to the bookstore on a Saturday and buy me any book I wanted. He bought me a Commodore 64 so I could learn computing. He thought computers would be the next big industry, and wanted me to have a head start. It was my first love.

Entering 4th grade, I was a new person. I went from middle of the pack to top of the class. At the beginning of the year, I started at the lowest math level. After acing several of my homeworks and quizzes, my teacher gave me a placement test. She moved me to the highest math level. I was now one of the 'smart' kids, and an honor roll student for the first time.

I had the same teacher for 5th grade as 3rd grade. During a parent teacher conference, she told my parents, "I don't know what happened to Cathy in 4th grade, but she is a completely different student."

Computer science was always going to be my choice in college.

I've worked as a programmer in telecom, internet marketing and aerospace industries.

All because a woman I've never met inspired me in the summer of 1983 to do better, try harder, and never let anyone tell me what I can or can't do.

After Challenger blew up, shuttle launches were never again shown to children in school. A whole generation grew up without the marvel, imagination and daring of traveling beyond our small blue planet. Had I never seen the shuttle launch of 1983, I do not think I would be the same person I am now. That event imprinted on who I would become.

I was washing dishes tonight when my husband said she died. My heart dropped, and I couldn't believe it. She can't have been that old? 61. Pancreatic cancer.

RIP Sally Ride. emoticon

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I also was shocked at her death. So young!

    What a lovely tribute. I'm sure Sally now understands all that she did to influence a generation of young women.

    RIP Sally emoticon
    3100 days ago
    I love that she was an astronaut and her name was Ride

    That Challenger accident was pretty shocking, understandable the decision not to show launches live to school children any more.

    So cool she inspired you the way she did !!
    3102 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/25/2012 4:23:26 PM
    Wow what a story! She truly was an inspiration to so many. Thanks for sharing your story of the impact she had on your life.
    3102 days ago
  • DRB13_1
    Thank you for this moving tribute.
    I came along during the time of civil rights and women's rights and am grateful that doors opened so everyone could have the chance to pursue their dreams according to their individual interests and abilities.
    If you are looking for any pleasure reading, look up "Half the Sky."
    Agree with others - please share this with your local newspaper and other social media - it is so good! emoticon
    3102 days ago
  • MRSKS2009
    Thank you so much for this story. My elementary school was named after Sally Ride (Sally K. Ride elementary in The Woodlands, TX, home of the Ride Challengers) and I am sad to say that I don't know nearly as much about her as I should. I was saddened to hear the new yesterday. It is inspiring to hear how others were inspired by her.
    I am more proud than ever to have been a Ride Challenger.
    3103 days ago
    As a former scientist, I'm with you. Sally Ride will be missed.
    3103 days ago
    I was shocked when I heard the news. I was so sorry to hear of her death from pancreatic cancer. As the first American woman in space, she made it cool for girls to be intelligent and good at math !

    emoticon emoticon

    3103 days ago
  • -LINDA_S
    Thanks for a lovely story of inspiration. Wow, she was younger than me!
    3103 days ago
    Thanks for the nice comments, everyone! I never got a chance to tell her that she made a difference in my life. I hadn't truly thought about it until now. I have considered sending a copy to her family somehow.

    As for sharing the link, sure go ahead.
    3103 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/24/2012 6:45:50 PM
    Beautifully written. I could see this being published in a newspaper or something.
    3103 days ago
    {{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}}

    Lovely tribute to an amazing woman... by a woman amazing in her own right!
    3103 days ago
    What a wonderful tribute to her! I think you should look into getting it published so everyone can see what a difference one woman made in your life. Do you mind if I put this on my facebook page? It's too goo not to share.

    Ride, Sally, Ride! We'll miss you.
    3103 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/24/2012 1:16:06 PM
    I love this! It's amazing how often people we never know can shape the course of our future!!! Just goes to show you the power of your mind and how a little motivation can go a long way!

    RIP Sally Ride!!! emoticon
    3103 days ago
    I love this blog! The women who came before you and fought for you are so proud of you and all you have accomplished. You might not realize it but you are now the inspiration for the next generation of little girls who have their eye on you.

    Also...happy Amelia Earhart's birthday!

    3103 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4892468
    Pancreatic cancer, I've known too many people to die from that :-(

    She indeed changed a lot of lives, those of which she has no idea she affected!
    3103 days ago
  • BILL60
    Great blog. You, my friend, have come a long way and I congratulate you.
    3103 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12728408
    Beautiful Blog
    3103 days ago
    Lovely hommage. emoticon
    3103 days ago
  • no profile photo CD7262646
    She was a great women,RIP.
    3103 days ago
    Yeah, she was (still is) awesome! I got to watch that space shuttle launch at school, too. It's great to hear just how inspired you were by her, and also wonderful that your father encouraged your interest in science and math. You've also brought up an interesting point about the children not seeing the space shuttle launches. I'd not thought about that, but it's sad, isn't it....

    RIP Sally Ride.
    3103 days ago
  • ALICIA214

    In spite of all the medical strides made looking for cures for cancer,that
    dreadful disease still takes people way too soon, as you say
    R.I.P Sally Ride you were quite a woman!!
    3103 days ago
  • no profile photo CD12568225
    RIP Sally Ride
    3103 days ago
    It's hard to lose someone you looked up to all your life and thought of as your mentor. She would've been proud of you.
    3103 days ago
    She was a great woman!
    3103 days ago
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