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30 Years Ago Today: The Challenger Disaster


As it would have it, today is the 30 year anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I read it this morning via The News-Herald Ohio. At first it made me feel a little old. Then I realized that it's a very selfish thing to think. I don't normally think this way, but as my kids keep getting older, well, so do I...and once in a while I remember just how many years I've been on this earth.

I recall that tragic day in history, very much like most would recall where they were and what they were doing in the waking moments of the 9/11 disaster. I was in the 6th grade. It was Jr. High School for me back then (in my home state of CT). We were just sitting down in front of the big-tube TV on top of that old black double-decker rolling cart.

We were going to watch the first teacher go up into space. Our awesome teacher, Mrs. Carey, was kind enough to let us watch it happen! Come to think of it, I believe she was actually our science teacher, and probably got a lot of the other teachers on board with this viewing, because I remember a lot of classes tuning in.

We were so excited! We couldn't wait. And then, as quickly as it all wound up, it ended! As we looked around the room at each other, we weren't sure if we just saw what we saw was or if it was suppose to happen. Most of us had probably never seen a rocket launch before. There was a lot of fire, there was a lot of smoke...that was normal we learned. The explosion? That was not.

I knew nothing about death. At that time in my life I'd only known of one person in my family (or that I'd ever met) who passed away, and that was my Grandpa. I remember being just a little thing when my parents got a call that caused us to hop in my dad's truck asap and drive (I don't know how many miles) into the night. Apparently, the call was from my Grandpa Jo or my Grandma Jerry. Seems Grandpa wanted to meet me. I guess he hadn't in the two ++ or something years I'd been alive. And now he wanted to, because he was dying.

I remember it all clear as day. I was really short (well, that hasn't changed much) so I could only see the side of the bed. The sheet and muted colored blanket in the nursing home (or hospital) hung over the side of the bed. I remember being a little scared. I remember him smiling at me and reaching out to hold my hand as I walked in (my parents sent me first as they followed behind). I did touch his hand. I don't remember much after that. I'm only glad for the memory...even though it is a sad one.

The Challenger memory is sad also. But, on a positive note, it was also an amazing opportunity. It was an accomplishment and honor for the people in that vessel. Not only that, it was a special moment for Christa McAuliffe. Sometimes dreams don't turn out the way we plan. We lose someone, we lose our own lives, but on the way to them there are some special and memorable things that happen.

That journey defines who were are/were. It inspires others, it teaches lessons. It proves that life must go on and that dreams must be pursued, no matter the risks. People will continue to do this and should be applauded and supported to do so. The alternative is a  life living in fear. That is not a life, that is a prison.

As we reflect on this day in history, and the tragic events which have happened in the past (some that we may have sadly witnessed) let's take a moment of silence for those that have been lost...and then appreciate those who are living. Be it a friend, Grandma, sister, brother, a child, a teacher, a parent, yourself. Those taking risks. Support them. And use today to reach out, no matter how hard, and touch them...

On that age thing. I'm thinking that if 30 years ago when the Challenger exploded on TV was a long time ago to me, what was 38-40 years ago when I saw my Grandpa Joe before he passed away?

 Shouldn't that memory make me feel even older?

No. Somehow it doesn't.

 Because in the end, it doesn't matter how old I am. What I know is this: I'm lucky to be here and have the life I have and have had up until now. And in that case, I will rejoice in that, not whine.
Glass half full, you know? Lucky. Today.

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