It’s weird the things that you remember as though they were yesterday. Twenty-two years ago today the Challenger exploded, and our world will never be the same.
I was eleven years old, and went to a small Catholic school in Cleveland. Back then we never went to gather in the basement of our school in our little red plaid uniforms and sit on hard metal folding chairs to watch on a 27 inch color television the miracle of going into space.
I remember I was sitting next to a boy that I had a crush on and we were talking about how we should both become astronauts when we grow up. We thought that going into space was the coolest thing that could ever happen to a person.
Then the countdown began. It was like something out a of a movie. A slow countdown and then a launch. We all clapped once the Challenger took off, then suddenly the world stopped. The fantasy that we were all playing in our head quickly jumped out the window as the Challenger suddenly went up in flames. No one could believe what we were seeing. The room was speechless for the first time.
The teachers looked around at each other in shock. they didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden out principal, Sister Dorothy, walk up from the front of the room and told us to go back to our classrooms. She quickly shut off the television and sternly forced us out of the school basement into the classroom.
Once we got back to the classroom it was like we were walking around in a nightmare and just woke up. The teachers must have been given strict instructions not to talk about what happen because they went straight back to their lesson plans.
I myself didn’t even realize it was real until I arrived home from school. My mother was standing at the kitchen table with a blank look on her face. I asked her what was wrong. She told me to sit down and continued to explain the tragedy of that day. She told me the astronauts were now in heaven. I remember thinking that they sure got there faster then if they were in the shuttle. I think I even said it aloud because I remember my mom cracking a quick smile.
She went on to ask me if I had any questions, if I wanted to talk about it. I remember that I just wanted to go on and do my homework then play.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a life-altering day that was. I now realize that these tragedies in our childhood are part of what defines us. I never did become an astronaut and I never did look at a shuttle launch the same again.