There are moments in life where time stands still. A memory that burns into our soul that never goes away. For some, it was Pearl Harbor Attack, and others it was day President Kennedy was assassinated. But for people of my generation, especially my age group. it is likely a late January day in 1986. Our day of that we will likely not soon forget.
As an eager 11-year-old, I was intrigued by space travel. I was in the Young Astronaut’s Program at Mary Phillips School. I dreamed of traveling to the moon and beyond one day. My hopes and dreams not necessary shattered by Challenger Tragedy but there were at least troubled.
The day started off normal. I headed off to school on the morning of January 28, 1986 with my lunch and school books and settled into my classroom on the second floor ready for the day. The shuttle launch had been delayed several times because of weather and technical issues. But when word came that it was a go that Tuesday morning those of us in the YAP gathered in another classroom with our lunches to watch the launch.
We eager students, ready to learn lessons from space over the next few days. This was the first Teacher in Space flight.
Time then stood still.
As a bunch of 10- to 12-year-old kids, we did not quite understood what happened at first. Everything looked normal. But it wasn’t. It became clear to everyone that something tragic had happened. We were sent back to our classrooms nothing else was mentioned about what happened.
It was not until I got home from school that day that I learned the shuttle had been destroyed in an apparent explosion. All seven astronauts were dead. Their families grieving, the world, myself and my classmates mourned with them.
I may not have achieved my dreams of exploring space, but one of my fellow YAP members actually went on to become a full-fledged “rocket scientist.” She worked for NASA on a handful of programs as a contract worker.
I yearn for the day when we travel back on our own rockets, in our own spacecraft. I’m eager to see us land back on the moon and travel beyond.
CNN’s coverage of the launch
President Reagan’s speech