What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

28 January 2011

In Remembrance: 25 Years Later

I know for sure I've done a Challenger post before, but I can't find it. So much for my goal to avoid repetition; I imagine I'll say the same thing as last time. But after all, the feelings haven't changed, so perhaps some repetition is warranted.

Source. I had intended to find one of the nice posed mission
pics for this post, but when I ran across this one I liked it
too much to pass up. This is right before the famous shot of
them walking out to the shuttle, all smiles and waves.

My father's second-grade tragedy was Kennedy. Mine was Challenger. We didn't watch the launch that day (for which I thank God & my primary-school principal at least once a year), and so it was that our music class was interrupted with our principal making the announcement that the shuttle had exploded and the seven astronauts had been killed. I don't remember what happened after that, whether we continued with the lesson or not. I do remember that our music teacher kept her composure, and I'm still impressed by that; classroom of kids or not, had I been an adult, and especially an educator, I probably would have sat down and cried right away-- that was pretty much my reaction to Columbia.

A few days later my cousin told me one of the many jokes going around at the time, which I unwisely repeated to my mother. She was horrified that I would say such a thing, of course, and once I understood why she was upset I was horrified, too. Twenty-five years later, I know that humour is a coping device for some (including myself, I guess), and these days I would be both less horrified and less inclined to repeat it.

Speaking of humour, I'll go ahead and make my obligatory snark: It's completely obscene that I can remember anything from 25 years ago. Geez, I feel old. Especially now that I'm back at uni, and I see the occasional casual reference to Challenger in my textbooks-- I look around at my classmates and know that it doesn't make their stomachs lurch or bring tears to their eyes. Their generation has had its own tragedies, of course, but if a conversation ensues I feel very alone in my emotions. Sometimes I'll catch the instructor's eye when this happens, just to have someone to connect to.

All this to say, I have not forgotten. I will never forget. I will probably stay away from the news analysts today, just because I don't want to watch the video-- searching for images for this post was bad enough. The picture of a y-shaped cloud is seared into my memory forever and does not need refreshing. And even worse are the articles detailing every minute of the tragedy, and all the ways that seven lives could have been saved if NASA had used a bit of foresight. It sends me into depths of sadness every time-- not only for the astronauts and their families, but also for the NASA employees who had to have blamed themselves for sending their friends up unprepared. Twenty-five years is a long time to cope with those emotions.

Where were you, 25 years ago today? (Or if you're younger than me, I guess you can talk about whatever you want.)


Megan K. Bickel said...

I was totally devastated by the Challenger. I was a total space geek at the tender age of 8. I wanted to go to Space Camp so badly it hurt. I was angry at my school for not letting us watch the launch that day. In fact, no one mentioned anything about it. When I got to the day care center after school I asked how the launch went. They sent me to the center director for her to tell me. I cried and cried and cried. I still haven't gotten over it, as I think NASA never really did either.

....Petty Witter said...

Quite amazing, not to mention scary, how quickly these disaster jokes spread. I can remember I got my first Michael Jackson 'joke' within 5/10 minutes of his death being announced.

Anonymous said...

I was in the third grade and was going through a serious "I want to be an astronaut phase." We weren't allowed to watch to the launch either so we got the announcement when one of the teachers came in to tell our teacher. I didn't actually get to see it until I got home that night and watched the news.

But the weirdest thing I remember about that day was being picked on by the resident mean girl. For some reason she'd decided that girls should ONLY wear colored tube socks with stirrup pants (all the rage back then) and I was wearing white socks. I specifically remember her recess speech telling me that if I'd only done one thing differently that day -- put on the right color of socks -- then everything in the world would have been different and the Challenger wouldn't have exploded. Ah, kids...

Su said...

@Megan: I don't remember if I knew about the launch ahead of time, but yeah, I definitely did the buckets of tears thing. And I agree about NASA-- their disasters are certainly among the reasons for their funding being cut. :(

@Petty: People really do go too far with those. I still think humour is a valid coping mechanism, but thinking before one speaks is a valid life skill.

@Chicklit: I think I was in that phase, too... or maybe it came a couple of years later for me. Either way, Challenger definitely had an impact on what I wanted to be when I grew up. And WOW, the imagination of a girl who thinks the right colour socks will fix everything! Gosh, I hope she's a writer. (And I had about four pairs of stirrup pants at that age!)

JEFritz said...

It is a tragedy, one I kind of don't know how to respond to (I don't remember it as I was a blob of cells in my mother's uterus at the time). I've certainly seen my fair share of national grief and how even in the bleakest, why-would-this-happen-ist times, people find the strength to keep going. They may be crying, but they won't stop.

Amy said...

I was also in the second grade. The day of the crash, we ate astronaut ice cream and drank Tang. Our teachers were all very excited about the flight and had spent a few weeks gearing lessons around it. Each classroom was fitted with televisions and we all gathered around to watch. It was the first time most of us had ever seen a launch, so we all cheered when it exploded, thinking it had burst into space successfully. Our teachers were mouth agaped and stunned. Televisions were immediately shut off and a room full of children fell uncharacteristically quiet at the weight of the room.
I will never forget that day or that innocent cheer that so quickly birthed grief.

Su said...

@JE: We never seem to run out of tragedies. :( Although you are right about that being the time when our strength is revealed.

@Amy: 1) I'm amazed that you got to 2nd grade without ever seeing a launch. 2) I seem to remember that we didn't watch it because Mrs. McAuliffe was meant to do some lessons from space, and we were going to watch those instead. 3) I am totally in tears, thinking of how quickly you went from cheers to shock. No, that's a moment you can't possibly forget.

Charlie's Church of Christ said...

I was an infant at the time, so obviously I don't understand how huge it was at the time.

Michelle in a shell said...

Astronauts are hands-down some of the bravest individuals. Here's to their memory.

Su said...

@Charlie: Right. But again, it's not like your lifetime hasn't had tragedies to cope with.

@Michelle: Well said!