Friday, January 28, 2011


I was in third grade.

There we were, packed into a classroom at Maple Dale Elementary in Blue Ash, waiting to watch a moment that would be made indelible in history.

Teachers bubbled with excitement; one of them had transcended beyond the classroom to an experience of uncharted proportions. Experiments in space. The captive attention of millions of school children.

The Challenger mission was truly an opportunity for inspiration.

Since that day, it has continued to be one of the greatest palls on a space program that fizzles like a dying star.

Lined up on a rough, burnt tangerine rug, we sat Indian Style and watched the countdown. Rocket boosters flaring. Smoke billowing from the launch pad.

The pool camera feed shot back and forth between the space ship and Christa McAuliffe's parents, who stood with spectators gathered to celebrate the historic moment for teachers. The historic moment for NASA.

The historic moment for America.

Moments later, the shuttle burst into a cloud of bright orange fury, splitting apart and incinerating the lives and dreams that sailed on that fateful voyage.

Seven lives lost.

As third graders, we did not understand the magnitude of the moment. Loss of life is an incredibly difficult concept to fathom at 30, much less at nine years old.

I retreated to facts and figures. Every morning, I'd pour over the Cincinnati Enquirer, searching for any snippet of information about the explosion. Tiny, child-safe scissors in hand, I'd clip every story I found and save it in a manila folder my mom let me keep in our kitchen.

Grasping to understand the prominence of the tragedy, I read about fellow Ohioan Judy Resnik's achievement as the second American woman in space. I poured over diagrams of O-rings and rocket boosters.

The fascination gave seed to my own dream.

Absorbing news - both print and broadcast - became a pastime for me. I developed an insatiable appetite for learning about current events at home and abroad, reading beyond the columns about the Challenger explosion, digesting pieces about Corazon Aquino and Haley's Comet.

The dreams of so many were dashed among the stars that fateful January morning.

But they illuminated the possibilities of my own, and for that tiny gift, I'm grateful.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. Where were you?

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Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


The Better Half said...

Excellent post, Katy. So many of us can remember where we were at pivotal moments in history. But few of us can cite personal growth, or, from the perspective of a nine-year-old, identify specific fork-in-the-road directional changes that arose from such tragedies.

(P.S. -- Third grade, eh? I had been out of college four years and was in my second year of teaching. Sigh.)

Anonymous said...

That's funny about the P.S.. I was thinking myself,wait a minute, "Was it that long ago?" And then it hit me. She is much younger.

Growing up in Florida, we stood on the school lawn (high school) to watch to explosion in real time, right in front of our eyes. I have suffered too much illness since then to claim remembering anything more than simple being. It does however, make me feel a little better about the situation knowing that not only did we not give up in out explorations but also that it gave way to other dreams in great people like you.

Thanks for the post.