|Don Garretson at work.|
On Wednesday, April 28, I again walked along Titusville foreshore and called in at the Space Walk Of Fame Museum. The dedication of the team of volunteers that runs this amazing place was evident. There had been changes to the display, plus a signature added to one of the artefacts. One of the Gemini astronauts had called in during the week and signed the electrocardiogram scroll that had been made during his launch into space.
I also mailed some posters back to Australia, paying more than I was happy with.
Late Wednesday afternoon I drove to Titusville's Kennedy Point Park to meet tour guide, raconteur, naturalist and photographer Don Garretson. I had twice come across Don at the Space Station Payload Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, where he was expertly explaining its function to tourists. But it was not his work there I had come to discuss, but rather his life experiences that led him to his current occupation as a tour guide.
Here was a man who as a child had watched an Apollo Saturn 5 launch. As we sat in the park overlooking the seven kilometres wide expanse of the Indian River he pointed to where he had seen the effect of the rocket's shockwave advancing across the water of the river. Years later he had flown on the security helicopters that assist space shuttle launches.
For a time Don worked the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, including near the ill fated Deep Horizon rig, which had exploded a few days before. He also told me of the struggle, as an ex-serviceman, to gain a university education. Like so many Americans I met on this trip, life had been a long struggle to survive.
As I left Kennedy Point Park I looked again at a vehicle that, when I arrived, I had seen parked incongruously close to the boundary shrubbery. The driver of this large, what Americans call SUV, had a laptop computer perched on the steering wheel. In an instant I understood why he had parked where there was almost no view of the Indian River. This guy was as close as he could get, unobserved, to the adjacent Clarion Motel. I could only assume that he was freeloading on the hotel's WiFi internet connection.
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Text, images and audio Copyright to Andrew Rennnie, 2010