Monday, December 1, 2003

The twelve seconds that changed history


By Mardell Haskins

The 20th Century and aviation began with an unforgettable minute in the span of time, atop a hill on a bitter, cold, windy Carolina morning. Never in the course of history did an event, no matter the magnitude or size, affect the course of the entire world, as did the first powered flight of man.

The many fantasies of flight in the minds of dreamers have become a reality in a mere century of time. The wings of time have flashed by in a scant moment, ending with the building of a space city two hundred and forty miles above the earth.

In just sixty-six short years, man went from dreaming of flight to walking on the moon. No single period in time has seen as much progress in the development of both society and technology than the last 100 years. Today, not even the heavens are the limit of man's dreams. Flight is limited only by the imagination of our minds.

The dreams of Orville and Wilbur Wright have left a legacy greater than any other person or persons in history. Their legacy is many things, not just the accomplishment of flight. They left a wealth of notes, diaries, photos, glass-plate negatives, and all their research and experiments. Amazingly, the photo that you see of their first flight was taken by them. They showed the world that curiosity, determination, faith, and belief in one's self can accomplish anything. We should all follow their lead.

[Our international readers have told us that there is some dispute over who, exactly, flew the first powered flight. However, history records the Wrights, and no matter who's version of history you acknowledge, there's no doubt the Wright's accomplishment was momentus. -- DG]

Wilbur was born in 1867, and Orville in 1871. They had two older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, a younger sister Katherine, and twin baby brothers who died in infancy. All the Wright children grew up in an atmosphere where they were encouraged to explore whatever aroused their curiosity and to pursue intellectual interests. Wilbur and Orville believed that they got their mechanical aptitude, not from their father, Milton, a Bishop in the Lutheran Church, but from their mother, Susan Koerner Wright.

Their father a man of iron will and absolute self-confidence, was so mechanically inapt that he could not even drive a nail straight, while their mother, a quiet, retiring woman, enjoyed working with her hands. Their many mechanical and technological achievements, all without the benefit of formal education, were inspired and encouraged by their mother. She had a rare understanding of mechanics for a woman, especially in that era, the late 1880s. She encouraged them to solve problems and gave all her children a fascination for mechanics that they had their entire lives.