My 91-year-old father had heard on the news that an outburst from Haley’s Comet might be visible in the night sky (it had passed closest to Earth in 1986 and wasn’t due to approach again until 2016-2062). My father, who was born in 1900 and had lived to read the news that the wreckage of the Titanic which sank in 1912 was rediscovered in 1985, realized that this was his last chance to make a connection with this great astronomical event. And so, during my visit to his home from France where I was living at the time, he jumped up one evening from the TV news and said to me, “Dan, we have to go outside to see Haley’s Comet!!” There was no arguing with this strong-willed person who had managed to survive four wars, the Great Depression and penury, the Spanish Flu, a spouse with Alzheimers, a family suicide, and so much more. So, we went out to search the skies for Haley’s Comet. As we stood there, an airplane flew overhead, its anti-collision lights flashing through the dark sky. “There it is!!..Haley’s Comet!!”. I said, “Yep, Dad, I’m so glad we got to see it.” Seeing “Haley’s Comet” made his decade, his spontaneous bucket list. Before he died at age 102, he told me, “Dan, I will never forget that we saw Haley’s Comet together!” He experienced many marvelous things in his long lifetime, and I think that Southwest Airlines Flight 59 was one of the greatest.
- Daniel Brents, 2020