Originally posted 9/14/2009 - I am re-posting this in honor of the heroic people who perished on the Space Shuttle Challenger 25 years ago today:
Where were you January 28, 1986 at 11:39 am EST?
I was standing on the grass with the rest of my class staring at a streak in the sky and, not aware just yet, of the impact that image would have on me. That 'streak' was the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding before my eyes. This disaster claimed the lives of: Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, a teacher participating in the Teacher In Space Project. I admit I had to look up some of their names, but, it was important to have each and everyone of them here with me as I try to explain how that moment was my first sobering lesson in life.
Minutes earlier, my little catholic school in that sleepy little circus town off the Gulf of Mexico was alive. A perk of living in Florida is being able to, sometimes,view glimpses of the space shuttles launching from the Kennedy Space Center. We also followed this particular one closely since it involved a teacher whose purpose on this voyage was to literally teach us all about "The ultimate field trip" and to relay to us "Where we've been, Where we are going."
I was one of a bunch of giddy students lined up and ready to rush out the door when we got the signal from the principal over the intercom. We were finally allowed to pile out onto the front lawn and watch the space mission make it's mark in history. Our teachers fluttered around us to make sure we were paying attention and looking in the right direction so we didn't miss the moment. Then, it happened...The very visible streak shot up in the clear sky. We were elated that we were able to see it from that little patch of grass so many miles away. Our heads rattled around and the chatter started as the explosion occurred and the trail of smoke split off in different directions across the sky. Our principal,who had been monitoring the launch and the explosion from a TV in her office, awkwardly stepped out and approached the other faculty. Their moods changed and their expressions gave way to our imaginations. We were herded back into our classroom without an immediate explanation while the flaming debris was crashing into the Atlantic Ocean.
The silence broke and the news was released to us and we all sat slumped back in our chairs and I wondered.... Oh, how I wondered! How and why do things like that happen? What was Christa McAuliffe's class' reaction? Did they know something was wrong before it exploded? Unanswered questions just kept pouring into my brain as my thoughts ran deeper than they had ever done before.
Christa McAuliffe perished in the explosion along with everyone else on board. However, she, somehow, in spirit, still managed to teach me this final lesson:
I learned to dream big; I learned there were ordinary people who believed so much in our world that they often put themselves in extraordinary positions for the rest of us; I learned that there weren't always happy endings; I learned that sacrifice was a part of life; I learned recovery was necessary and we must fix things to still keep moving forward; I learned to never forget those moments and that they are to be used as stepping stones to mark who you are and help build the path to where you are going in life. Thank you Mrs. McAuliffe. You taught me more than you will ever know!
So, where were you January 28, 1986 at 11:39 am EST?
Note: Challenger image copied from the following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster