Tuesday was “Slice of Life” day. Not feeling well. Head pounding. Can’t think. Can’t write.
Wednesday morning, I’m home. Memories come later. This morning’s “on this day” news was the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster from 1986. Memories come and go, but this particular a.m. news sparked a vivid and disruptive time-travel experience for me, where my high school choir teacher came running into the studio room yelling, “Turn on the TV! The Space Shuttle just blew up!”
I remember. It was my senior year — last semester of high school — and we were happily socializing before the bell rang. We were high schoolers, not paying any attention to the world beyond our own until…Boom! We were forced to watch, forced to think, forced to feel for others. I remember sitting down along the risers with my classmates while another boy ran and pushed the power button on the big black box hanging in the corner. We all sat in silence, watching, thinking, feeling.
I remember. I wasn’t feeling sad for the crew of the Challenger. How awful was I? I wasn’t wondering what happened at “Throttle up.” I figured I didn’t need to know that detail. I was reliving how my family had watched the first Space Shuttle take off in person — watching from the Titusville Pizza Hut with awe and wonder for the newest NASA space program victory. I remembered that the “5-Minute Guarantee Personal Pan Pizza” for lunchtime was new and that poor Pizza Hut staff could not possibly serve all the tourists that day in 5 minutes, and how my dad paid the bill anyway, even though it was supposed to be free.
I remember. As a future teacher-wanna-be, I felt awful for Christa MacAuliffe’s family. The first civilian– teacher– in space. What an opportunity! For an ordinary person to travel into space? It was the chance of a lifetime. This woman was everyone’s hero! Our own science teacher at our own high school had interviewed for that position! What a huge deal! I remember thinking, “Oh, my god! That could have been him!” Our class sat and watched, and thought, and felt for others in a way that not many of us had experienced before that time. I had never witnessed a death of a loved one at that point. I never had an aching heart before that day. I never knew those people or their family members, but that day…my last year of high school in 1986…I remember feeling pain for others.
I remember, but I dream about the future, too. I know that even though the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, bringing the world to a screeching halt, that NASA is not done with space. In 2003, one of my 5th grade students felt as I had in 1986. His grandmother’s backyard housed debris from the Columbia disaster. I thought, “Oh, you poor kid! I know exactly how you feel!” Watching, thinking, feeling for others, I’m sure he remembers that February day as I do this day. Even though the Space Shuttle program has ended, I imagine that NASA is currently designing future exciting endeavors for teachers and their students in space. I think of the International Space Station, and the future civilians who will travel to the moon, Mars, and beyond. I have hopes and dreams — and I have January 28, 1986 in the back of my mind forever.