28 January 2006

Day of Remembrance

Every five year old harbors some desire to be an astronaut, to travel in space. My desire bordered on obsession. Being buckled into my seatbelt was preparation for blast-off. My bedroom became the shuttle. We pretended to walk on the moon every afternoon during recess. I likely knew more about the Apollo and Gemini missions at five than I do now. Neil Armstrong was my hero.

So it was with rapt attention that I stared at the television that had been wheeled into my classroom twenty years ago this morning. Every child and every teacher knew the names of the astronauts, but we were there to cheer on one above all the others, Christa McAuliffe. She was a teacher, just an ordinary teacher, about to be thrust into space. She was born in Framingham, not far from where we sat. She taught in New Hampshire. A real, regular person, who looked and sounded like our mothers, would be going into space, the first civilian to do so. We sat and watched, wishing that she were our teacher and that we were going with her.

That day turned out not to be the celebration that had been anticipated, but a day of national mourning. 73 seconds after lift-off, the shuttle disintegrated and disappeared into a cloud of smoke. All the crew members died. I don't remember much about the rest of that day. Lunch was rather quiet and there wasn't much playing during recess.

My mother has the Time with a photograph of the disaster on its cover. It's still hard to look at. Most events like this, no matter how tragic, seem less so as time passes. The Challenger disaster, however, hits me in the same way now as it did that morning. I go back to being a five year old, unable to understand for a moment why the shuttle disappeared in that cloud of smoke, before the inevitable realization of what I had just watched.

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
Forgive the sappiness.


Blogger superclosetnerd said...

Some good posts and comments on here, glad I found it. I'm laying down a bookmark so I can come back later, I gotta go off to work now. My new site if anyone's interested (I don't really like it yet but I'm working on it and am new at it) --- rock fireplace

19 January, 2007 08:10  

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