Friday, January 28, 2011

The Challenger tragedy remembered

Like many of my generation the space shuttle Challenger disaster was the first "where were you" moment of my life. I was also one of the many children who watched live that day. Since today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger launch I thought I'd share my story.

I was in fourth grade when they showed the Challenger space shuttle launch on live TV and it was a big deal for schoolchildren because Christa McAuliffe, a teacher, was among the crew. My elementary school wasn't in a fantastic neighborhood, so when they put some of the older kids together in one room and hooked up a 13 in. television for us to watch, we knew it was a big deal.

At the time I think we were more excited about the idea of having the morning off from classwork than watching the shuttle launch. Then the unthinkable happened and shortly after take off the shuttle exploded.

Most of the students didn't understand what had happened until the reporters were explaining it. There were three teachers in the room, the two younger teachers started crying which caused some of the kids to start crying.

Also in the room, the scariest teacher in school, she taught fifth grade and gave out homework everyday. She dismissed the two crying teachers, turned off the TV and calmed down 50 kids all by herself. She became a little less scary that day (until the next year, when I ended up in her class.)

As word spread the day became increasingly sad and by the time I got home I started to understand the magnitude of what happened. When I got home my dad was watching the news and they showed the disaster over and over, my mom wanted to find something else for my brother and I to watch, but there was nothing else.

This was in the days before 24 hour news networks, there were the big three and CNN. Up unitl that point I hadn't seen all day news coverage before. As a TV obsessed child, it really resonated to me how big this was when they didn't go back to showing regular TV.

It was the first time I gained a little perspective beyond my eight year old world and to this day I can't watch shuttle launches on TV.

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