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Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Was Unaware. Are You?

On Wednesday morning I realized that there was no way I was going to get anything more than a picture from across the room of the speaker of the house, so I opted to check out some of the sights. A group of four of us headed out to walk and look. Our first stop was going to be at the Smithsonian National Space and Flight Museum I knew two of the people in the group from earlier conversations. Kelly, a successful entrepreneur who sold her first company when it went public on NASDAQ and her current business partner Alex. The one I didn’t know was General somebody or other. I only knew him from across the room group introductions. He had a kind of crusty Clint Eastwood aura about him, and I didn’t expect him to be anything but crusty. I was unaware.

As we walked in the museum, we strolled leisurely around looking at various airplanes and exhibits. Occasionally Alex, a retired Navy pilot would comment and the general would make similar interesting comments.

As we walked upstairs the General, whom I now been introduced to as a retired Air Force Two Star General Larry Fortner pointed to a plane, which looked more like a rocket with a couple of stubby wings on it, and said “I flew this one.”
I was still unaware.

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter hung from the ceiling above us.

“Really?” I said thinking that’s kind of cool. Touring the Smithsonian with a hot shot pilot was something to blog about so I wanted some more information.

“Yeah, it was before they painted NASA colors on it though.”, pointing to the tail which had the NASA emblem on it.

I started thinking and almost got out “Why did NASA take all the planes” when the General said, “Yep that’s the tail number. 818”
"You mean you flew that exact plane, not just that type of plane, but the one hanging from the ceiling in the Smithsonian Museum of Flight and Space?"
“Yes. We’d release from the B-52 and take off climbing sometimes to over 100,000 feet.”
He told me later that he also flew the X-15.

The North American X-15A-1 was perhaps more famous for being released from a B-52. While the sign read top speeds of mach 7, he stated it went mach 15. I have no idea how fast that is, but I believe him over the plexi-glass covered sign the museum displayed. It flew over 300,000 feet above sea level.

Previously unaware, but now well aware, I was truly in the presence of elite greatness. One of the world’s best ever.

But wait. The story is not over. We got hungry and decided to get a bite to eat. We ended up at the Willard, a hotel that makes the average Holiday Inn look like a bi-plane compared to the mach 15 speed of the Willard.

We ordered, talked, ate, talked some more and left. I was unaware.

Later that night at dinner, Kelly referenced eating lunch with Elizabeth Dole at the Willard. I about came out of my seat asking “What are you talking about?”

“I thought you knew. We didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but Elizabeth Dole was just a couple tables over from where we were sitting at lunch. Sorry, I just thought you knew she was there.”

In the presence of greatness and unaware; how many times has that happened to you? Maybe you are still unaware. It challenged me to continually take notice of everyone around me, for there is greatness in all of us if you look in the right place.