By TOMMY BRYAN NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore went back to his school last week. The 1981 Mt. Juliet High graduate took the opportunity to offer a couple of lessons to a gymnasium jam-packed with friends, family, dignitaries and the Mt. Juliet student body. Introduced by his wife Deanna after brief remarks from a pair of his former coaches -- John Simms and Jerry Kirby -- Wilmore seemed very much at ease in front of the throng. But I guess when you’ve flown into orbit at 17,500 miles an hour atop a massive explosion -- talking to the hometown folks isn’t that big a deal. Wilmore called the launch, “the most humbling event of my life. “I’m just an average kid, with above average parents, above average coaches and teachers from an above average community. I stand before you as living proof that you can be involved and take a role in some pretty miraculous things. “The one thing that I took away from this whole thing . . .I want to challenge each of you to live your life like your life is not about you.” Toward the end of his 20-minute talk, Wilmore called Mt. Juliet High junior Shelley Choudhury to the podium. Shelley had been chosen to take part in a live video-phone uplink with Wilmore and other astronauts from the International Space Station. Choudhury and other Tennessee students journeyed to Tennessee Tech on Sunday, Nov. 22 for the event.
Time and equipment issues cut the interview short and Shelley never got to speak to Wilmore.
Apologizing for the snafu, Wilmore presented the teary-eyed student an STS-129 mission patch to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. It’s pretty obvious that Barry Wilmore’s feet are still planted squarely on the ground -- even after he’s flown into outer space.