30 years

Challenger_flight_51-l_crew

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger Tragedy.  Like with most major events everyone remembers where they were or what they were doing at that moment.  For me that moment was my junior year in high school.  There was a small group of us able to watch it in the school library while working on other assignments.  By this time shuttle launches had become routine and the only thing special about it was the first teacher in space.  I have always been interested in space, science and technology but to be honest this launch was routine for me too.  I would give the occasional look at the tv screen.  As the shuttle lifted off I paid closer attention, still fascinated at how something that big could get off the ground and travel that fast.  As everyone remembers it just happened.  Something didn’t seem right.  Even as teenagers we had seen enough launches to know that this one was very, very different.  After a few seconds, those of us watching started to realize the shuttle was gone, destroyed but at the same time not comprehend what we had just seen.  As we stared in disbelief, the images of wreckage hitting the water and the looks of anguish and shock of those on the tv screen, the realization of what happened hit all of us.  How can this happen?  We are the greatest country in the world with the smartest people.  I am a student of history, I love history, I was aware there were other tragedies that came before.  Apollo 1 (27 January 1967) for example.  We learned from them, this can’t happen to us.  Needless to say the news travelled very fast; and this is before cell phones or the internet.  Within minutes the entire school had changed and in a way a little bit of our innocence.  I like to think we all grew up a little that day.  Seeing something so routine go horribly wrong and learning how fast it can all end.  The rest of the day was a loss.  We just sat in our classes until it was time to go home.  The rest of the night and into the next few days we would just stare at the tv and watch over and over the replay of the last moments still not understanding what had happened just as we did on 9/11.  We mourned, we investigated, we learned and ultimately we persevered and continued on with the program even after tragedy would strike again in the space shuttle Columbia (1 February 2003).  Just as with 9/11, these things did not destroy us but make us stronger and if only for a little while brought all of us together.  I will close this out with President Reagan’s words from that tragic day.

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