On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing the seven crew members on board.
In those days, we followed every shuttle mission. I was at Longs Peak Junior High in Longmont, Colorado, and we’d just started orchestra. A few of the brass players walked in late, and when the sub asked them where they’d been they said “Watching the space shuttle blow up!” The sub told them to sit down and get ready, while the rest of us looked at each other in confusion.
At the beginning of my next class, the teacher told us what had happened and wheeled in a television on a cart so we could watch the news coverage ourselves. This was the mission with Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who was supposed to be the first civilian in space. Several of my own teachers had applied for the program.
For days after the tragedy, I waited to hear that maybe…possibly… some of the crew had evacuated and found parachutes or some other miracle to save them. Of course, that wasn’t true. Still, I hoped. In vain.
This was one of the first major events in my lifetime. I was horrified. I was already a space geek back then, and I wanted to go. Even after the tragedy sunk in, I still wanted to go. Today, at age 47, I still want to go.
Thirty-two years ago today. Ad astra per aspera.
What memories do you have of this event? How did you and the people in your life feel about it?