Ellison Onizuka was the first Asian-American to fly in space. The pride of Kona, as we all know, lost his life going up to the stars in the tragic Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986. For the past quarter century, visitors, including thousands of local school kids, have been able to see what Onizuka hoped to see- the reality of outer space mixed with scientific wonder- at Kona International Airport’s Ellison Onizuka Space Center. Along with seeing an astronaut’s vision, visitors now have just 50-days left to see a moon rock, a space suit and other items that instill pride, wonderment, and perhaps a quest to become something great, to realize a dream, whatever that dream might be. The Onizuka Space Center building is being demolished for airport expansion.
Onizuka reached for the stars, and now his legacy is being closeted, literally. Sadly, the moon rock will go back to NASA, the interactive items will be dismantled, and the personal Onizuka memorabilia will end up in storage, as the Department of Transportation, the State, the county, and basically anybody who could possibly work to figure something out simply hasn’t figured out how to continue to display at least some of these items of interest in a way that doesn’t break the coffers of the non-profit Onizuka Board that has to make wise financial decisions about Ellison’s legacy. We get that the building space is needed by the DOT, but what about options to house this invaluable legacy elsewhere? That’s it? Game over? Thanks for coming?
Come on, tell me there’s not one spot- one walkway- at the Kona airport, a museum, a mall or somewhere else that visitors- local and out of state- might still have the chance to witness the details of history that will disappear when the Onizuka Space Center closes its doors in less than two months?! No more aloha for this local boy- who’s even got a visionary quote written in your passport? Shame on us if we can’t figure out a way to keep the spirit alive and visible for generations to come. As Ellison’s brother, Claude, said, “…he never forgot his roots”. But now, it appears that Ellison Onizuka’s roots are forgetting him. Think about it…
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