January 28, 1986…….a day that I will forever remember.
I was living in NJ at the time, was in the 4th grade and had just come in from recess. We were all using the bathroom before class started when this kid, Ben, comes running in to tell us a NASA rocket with astronauts had just exploded. I remember immediately thinking he was making it up because astronauts went up in space in shuttles, not rockets. Well we got back to class and they immediately had our grade level go to the library and sit in these stadium like giant steps/seats in the media section. They had a TV setup with the news on and they were talking about NASA and the space shuttle Challenger. Then it happened, they replayed launch and explosion. It was at that moment my mental state went numb and lasted for about 10 hours or so. I’m not sure why but we stayed in the library for another 30 minutes or so, watching it over and over and over again while listening to analysts try to figure out what had happened. The whole day at school was talk about what we had watched and what we thought might have happened. After school I was at my friend Adam’s house and we were watching the news in the kitchen while drawing several different pictures of space shuttles. We must have done that for 2-3 hours until my parents picked me up. I had a basketball game that night. My dad was the coach for our team, the Hawks, and we were playing the Suns. The Suns were know for being a good team and tough to beat. I don’t know if it was that or the tragedy that happened earlier but I had never played as hard in previous games as i did that night. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough and we lost. I remember getting home from the game, turning on the TV and the first thing that came on was the explosion. It was at that point the numbing went way and I just lost it. Sadness and anger swept over me for about 5-10 minutes. All I could think of was the astronauts and their families.
I can’t remember anything that happened the next day other than that my dreams of becoming an astronaut had been shattered. I was young and didn’t realize before Challenger, that space travel was such a dangerous industry.
Now I remember this day every year and have a sad moment thinking about what happened, but this year it feels like the I’m am being hit the gut just like I was 30 years ago. I don’t know if it’s “old age” setting in or just the fact that it’s been 30 years! I first realized this anniversary of accident was going to be a little tougher after visiting the extremely well done “Forever Remembered” memorial for Challenger and Columbia at the Atlantis Exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. There is one point in the memorial where you turn a corner an see a piece of Challenger and a piece of Columbia. It’s very well done but definitely a big hit in the gut. I don’t want to be insensitive and post a picture today, but will share the link here for those that would like to make their own choice to see one of the pictures I took that day.
I know I have said it before but it’s been a while since my last blog…….I miss the shuttle program but am very glad to see us going back to riding on top rockets and increasing the chances of survival with a crew vehicle having the ability to be pulled away from the rocket in the event something goes wrong.
Hopefully we will never have to suffer another loss like we did with Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. The family and friends of all astronauts lost are in my thoughts and prayers this week.