The Only American Who Was So Far from Home, Part 2

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After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush called for a Day of Prayer and Remembrance on Friday, September 14. Astronaut Frank Culbertson, who was the only American in the International Space Station at the time, wrote down his thoughts that day. He said that right after 9/11 he suffered from too little news about what was going on in America. Later in the week his email was restored and then he suffered from too much news. He didn’t have time to read it all and he didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with it all at once. Still he was thankful for it and expressed  his gratitude for the supportive letters and friendship he was receiving.

Frank Culbertson, Courtesy NASA

On September 13, Culbertson and his two Russian cosmonaut companions discussed the events of 9/11 over dinner. After dinner Michael, one of the cosmonauts, told Culbertson that every email anyone sent him expressed how sorry they were that the terrorist acts had happened. His correspondents also extended their condolences to Culbertson and asked how he was doing. The other cosmonaut, Vladimir, taught Culbertson the Russian word for condolences that day.

Astronauts are, of course, in frequent contact with crews on the ground. Culbertson was in regular contact with both NASA and the Russian equivalent. He said that every Russian he talked to said kind words to him. On September 14, one of them told him that on the special Day of Prayer and Remembrance in the United States, Russians had been bringing flowers and lining all the walls of the U.S. embassy in Moscow. That night Russians lit candles in the street outside the embassy.

Frank Culbertson speaks about his time in space  with students in Washington, D.C., 2019. Courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls.

After describing the kindnesses of the Russians inside the space station and those connected with it on the ground, Culbertson wrote:

I hope the example of cooperation and trust that this spacecraft and all the people in the program demonstrate daily will someday inspire the rest of the world to work the same way. They must!

Pursue peace with all people,
and the holiness without which
no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14



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