Today is the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. It’s always been a day to remember for me because I was there that day. My dad traveled to Cape Canaveral to check up on some business at what is now Seabulk Towing. He decided to bring us with him so we could see the shuttle launch. We drove up early that morning.
I was excited to see it; I was very into space shuttles at the time and had watched many launches before, both from Canaveral and from the distance of our Fort Lauderdale home. Day launches were great, but night launches were amazing.
My mom was excited too as she had wanted to be an astronaut when she was a girl, and because one of her heroes, Christa McAuliffe, was on the Challenger crew and was to become the first teacher in space. She was only four years older than my mom.
My brother slept through it; he was too little to understand what it was all about. We listened to the countdown on the radio and watched the shuttle rise into the sky. Then this happened:
The thick black smoke still hung in the sky all day. I remember the disturbed looks on my parents’ faces and how they tried to stay calm as they explained what had happened. I don’t remember what they said. My dad bought me a plastic space shuttle as a sort of consolation for the launch having gone wrong. It was Columbia, which would experience its own disaster 13 years later, almost to the day. I still have that toy tucked away actually.
It was a strange, melancholic day. Isn’t it weird how events like this can become etched into our personal stories in such a powerful way? I still get emotional about it, especially when I watch the videos. And every year on the anniversary I watch the videos. My wife asks me why, but I don’t exactly know. It’s a part of my story, so I remember it.
|The Challenger memorial outside
the Idaho State Capitol Building