Friday, January 28, 2011


Twenty-five years ago today, I was a senior in high school.  My future was brightly in front of me and I was full of optimism and so ready to face it head on.  Life was good.  It was lunch period.  I remember it distinctly.  I was walking through the front commons of my high school when Julia, the editor of our school newspaper, rushed past me and said breathlessly that the Challenger had exploded.  I stopped and probably looked at her like she had grown horns.  What?! I was a features/editorial writer on the paper and was headed to the classroom.  Julia asked that I turn the television on in the class.  She was going to track down the rest of the newspaper "staff."

I got to class, turned on the t.v., watched, waited and cried.  I remember everyone quietly coming into class, putting down their belongings and sitting on the huge layout table.  All of us unable to turn away. Then our adviser came into the classroom.  She was unaware of the situation and promptly turned the t.v. off and proceeded to start lecturing us about how many times she told us we weren't to be watching during class.  Scott, one of the sports writers and athletes, walked to the television, reached over the teacher's head and turned it back on.  He very quietly said "The Challenger just exploded.  I think this qualifies as a news worthy exception."  Scott wasn't one to openly defy a teacher, so we were all pretty surprised.  The teacher walked over to her desk, set down and stared at the television in shocked silence.

I remember the school being incredibly quiet for the rest of the day.  The normal boisterous vibe was missing.  For a lot of us, I think it was the first time something of this magnitude had every happened.  We all remembered the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, but he was fine, he survived.  This was a situation where seven lives were ended abruptly, without warning.  On top of that, the pilot, Michael J. Smith, was a North Carolina native and Ron McNair was a graduate of North Carolina A & T State University and there was a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, on this mission.  So in some way, shape or form, we could all relate.

I guess the thing that affected us all the most was that we realized that nothing is guaranteed. In high school, we have the tendency to think we are indestructible and an event like this makes us realize that we truly aren't and that life can change in a split second.  We all grew up a little bit that day, whether we wanted to or not.

So twenty-five years later, I remember the crew of the space shuttle challenger: Commander Dick Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith,  Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist Judy Resnik, Mission Specialist Ron McNair, Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis, and Payload Specialist and Teacher Christa McAuliffe.  They inadvertently taught me how precious this life and this world is.  Thank you. I wish I could have learned this lesson another way.

1 comment:

  1. That was a very sad day.. I don't remember where I was that day, but will never forget where I was when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot, we were in high school and someone in the office told us what was going on over the PA system. Then later they told us he was dead. I remember the mourning of everyone and the quiet. :-(