Photo : an iPhone snap I took of Sawyer (L) with space journalist Miles O'Brien (center) and astronaut Leroy Chiao (R) during the STS-135 SpaceFlightNow live launch webcast. This shot was taken minutes before the shuttle took off from launchpad 39A.
One of the bright spots in attending NASA shuttle launches last year with Miles O'Brien and the SpaceFlightNow webcasters was meeting a teen space enthusiast named Sawyer Rosenstein (web/Twitter). The 18-year old runs an awesome space podcast, does space education work with children, advocates for science and space awareness, and lots of other cool stuff. We invited him to write a guest feature for Boing Boing, and it is one of my favorite guest posts ever.
Sawyer is physically disabled, as a result of a brutal bullying incident at age 12 that followed many other bullying incidents in school—he reached out to administrators for help early on, and got none.
Today, 6 years after the sucker punch that permanently changed his body, Sawyer received some justice. A $4.2 million settlement with the school district governing the middle school where the attack took place. His family also reached a private settlement with the attacker's family.
That money won't erase the physical challenges. It won't undo the suffering he has endured. It won't make the countless surgeries he's gone through, and may yet again, go away. It won't ensure that the kid who bullied him doesn't harm someone again (the bully received only a few day's suspension after the attack). But as someone who is now personally aware of how much it costs to need ongoing medical care in America, I think it's great that medical bills will at least be less of a problem in his life, even if not fully covered.
The first thing I noticed when I met Sawyer right outside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center at dawn, the day of the Shuttle's last journey to space, was his bright, enthusiastic, glowing energy. Man, that smile. The joy evident because he was right there at the space temple with all the rest of us. We were all smiling. Happy to be witnessing an amazing feat of human engineering, and happy to be gathered on an amazing day in history.
The first thing I noticed was not the fact that he uses a wheelchair, and had to struggle to navigate the disabled-unfriendly terrain in the press area, and the disabled-unfriendly attitudes of some of the people there. Sawyer's life isn't focused on the thing he survived. It's pretty much focused on the stars. And that's a great place to aim. He's a strong, smart, rare human being. He inspires me.
I'm so glad to read this news today. Godspeed, Sawyer. You rule.
Read Sawyer's special feature on Boing Boing: "Footprints on the Moon."
Photos: the final Space Shuttle launch, STS-135, taking off from Kennedy Space Center. Shot by Joel Rosenstein, Sawyer's dad. Below, the podcast team "puts their hands together to show unity and harmony between the team of Talking Space," photo by Dr. Lucy Rogers.