Friday, January 28, 2011

Where Were You 25 Years Ago? The Challenger Disaster

I wasn't really keeping up with the shuttle launch that fateful day twenty-fives years ago. I was aware that it was scheduled to fly and a teacher was going to be onboard, but shuttle flights were common by that point and I had other things on my mind, such as my dead-end job and "why wouldn't my boyfriend pop the question and marry me?"
I was actually at work (as a cashier!) when someone came in and said the shuttle had exploded. At the time, everyone there had reasonable expectations that the astronauts had survived. We were talking about NASA, afterall. They would probably be out with lifeboats rescuing them from the water, since they had all most-likely ejected from the shuttle. There really wasn't a feeling that something catastrophic had occurred. Not at that point anyway.
By the time I got off work and got in the car to go home, the feeling had changed. The radio station had stopped playing music and the deejays were allowing callers to phone in. I was still living at home and I don't believe my mother had even heard about it (my father would still have been at work). I put the television on and stayed glued to the tv for the rest of the evening. Watching those final 73 seconds over and over again.
It didn't seem like one of those pivotal "forever" moments back then. I had no idea that 25 years later I would remember where I was when I heard the news, or that I would even remember the events from that day that followed. A few years later I would meet astronaut Ronald E McNair's father. He wore a button (pinback) with his son's picture on his shirt. I remember him as a somewhat frail man, beat down by grief and still in pain, but proud of his son and that he gave his life doing something that he loved.
It's amazing that 25 years later, that day is still crystal clear in my mind. Other events have happened; the death of JFK Jr and 9-11, but I was just hitting adulthood back then and this one stands out. A passing of time, a mark etched forever on a calendar. In the end it's called life and these are part of the memories we take from it.

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