Friday, January 28, 2011

I Remember the Challenger Disaster

It's hard to believe that the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up 25 years ago. Like anyone who was around then, I have memories of where I was when I heard it and how I felt afterwards. It's that sick feeling that I associate with a few other unnatural disasters in my life, including the Kennedy assassinations, John Lennon's murder and, of course, the most horrible thing to happen (to Americans) in my lifetime--the World Trade Center destruction on 9/11/2001.

I was getting ready for work in San Francisco. I was watching it on TV (as I recall) and saw the sickening "wrongness" of the spacecraft in flight. You know, after 25 years maybe my memories are unclear. I may not have seen the images until later. I do know that we all felt stunned during that workday. I just read that in that pre-Internet, pre-cell phone time, almost everyone knew about it almost instantly. Thank TV and radio, and lots of calls on the land lines.

I'd watched numerous other NASA space flight liftoffs, including John Glenn on our old black-and-white TV. Watching launches become a ritual familiar to my family. Early morning, groggy by the set, waiting and waiting for that one small event. "T-minus X minutes and counting" became a familiar phrase.

Astronauts are genuine heroes, even as they have become NASA employees doing various jobs in space today. They were especially heroic in the early days, when the risk was so extreme. We didn't expect these "routine" flights to ever go wrong, but as we all know now, two shuttles have vaporized in space.

So sad, so shocking. And we went on to launch many more, successfully.

1 comment:

SlickRick63 said...

I was in Navy bootcamp in Orlando FL from January through March of 1986. We had to march as a unit to and from the chow hall, to the barracks, to medical for shots...everywhere. The first people out of the chow hall were supposed to start lining up in formation and the rest would fall in ranks as the came out of the chowhall and we would all march back to the barracks as a unit.Myself and a half dozen or so recruits had just formed up, standing at parade rest, looking at the sky...because what else is there to do at parade rest? I saw 2 or 3 trails of white smoke that seemed to be very close in front of me. Suddenly BOOM! The big orange ball we've all seen so many times. This happened right before ky eyes. I had no idea what it was. In bootcamp, you are somewhat insulated feom news or current events, so I didn't know there was going to be a launch. When we got back to the barracks, our company commander told us the bad news. He had a friend that worked at the space center and arranged a VIP tour for us. I will never forget that visual of the spiraling smoke trails, the boom, and the orange ball. It was so close and so surreal. I didn't quote feel right about touring the facility as a special guest. I didn't do anything to deserve it. We had no cboice but to go anyway. It was definitely a sad feeling when I found out what I just witnessed.