Monthly Archives: January 2011
It is my earliest memory of a catastrophic world event. I was 7 and a 1/2 years old because at that time in my life the 1/2 really mattered. I did not see it live. My father did. It was a special flight from the beginning because it was the first time an average citizen would venture into space, and she was a public school teacher. As a kid, your heroes are usually people who are untouchable like athletes and singers, but we all know teachers. So, when someone who works in a profession that you see almost every day of your life, it gets really exciting. I grew up in Florida, and despite living on the opposite coast, on a clear day, we could always see at least the smoke trail of a space shuttle as it lifted off. I don’t know what went through my father’s mind as he watched the sky that late morning of January 28th from the campus of Neil Armstrong Elementary School, but I can only imagine it was sadness and disbelief. I remember sitting in my 2nd grade classroom when the P.A. system crackled on and my father, the school’s principal, spoke calmly. He explained, as simply as he could, what he had just seen and then asked for a moment of silence. My memory of the moment fades at that point I think possibly because all of our worlds seemed to stop just as the Space Shuttle Challenger’s Mission had fatally and prematurely ended.
My memory picks up roughly 6 weeks later when my favorite TV show at the time, Punky Brewster, aired an episode (see below) about career day at Punky’s school where the students had to do a presentation of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Punky chose to do her presentation as an astronaut. The episode unfolded with Punky doing her presentation in the days before the Challenger was to liftoff. The other students in the class were fascinated and immediately changed their minds wanting to be astronauts. Their teacher explained about Christa McAuliffe and said he would bring in his TV from home so they could all watch the shuttle launch. The next scene is of Punky Brewster arriving home from school early and crying. To this day, there is no other episode of any television series other than this one that had as much impact on me or that I appreciate more for how they handled the situation. (The West Wing‘s “Isaac and Ishmael” following 9/11 comes very close though.)
Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion at 11:39:13 am EST…the day we lost 7 Americans to an O-ring failure that caused a domino effect of traumas throughout the space craft. Even though I know accidents happen, I still hold my breath when a space shuttle lifts off until it is beyond our view, and I still have a small amount of anxiety until it lands safely following its mission.
I can only imagine that these seven crew members would be pleased that their deaths were not in vain and that NASA has carried on with its missions to discover the world beyond our planet. May they continue to rest in peace as we remember their efforts in space exploration.
Back Row (left to right):
Ellison Shoji Onizuka, 39 – Mission Specialist, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF (posthumously promoted to Colonel), and Research Engineer. Eagle Scout. Japanese American. “Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at new worlds… to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.”
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, 37 – Concord High School Social Studies Teacher, Concord, New Hampshire. Married to Steve (remarried and became a federal judge). Two children: son, Scott (now a marine biologist) and daughter, Caroline (now a teacher)
Gregory Bruce Jarvis, 41 – Payload Specialist, Captain, USAF and Engineer. Married to Marcia. High School alma mater Mohawk Central High School in Mohawk, NY was renamed Gregory B. Jarvis Jr/Sr High School.
Judith Arlene Resnik, 36 – Mission Specialist, NASA Astronaut and Engineer. Second American woman and first Jewish woman in space. Classical pianist. Awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal in 1984.
Front Row (left to right):
Michael John Smith, 40 – Pilot, Captain, USN, and Test Pilot. Vietnam War Veteran. Distinguished Flying Cross recipient. Married to Jane. Three children: Scott, Alison, and Erin.
Francis Richard Scobee, 46 – Commander, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF, and Pilot. Married to Virginia. Two children: Kathie and Richard (Brigadier General, USAF and deputy director of operations for NORAD).
Ronald Ervin McNair, 35 – Mission Specialist, NASA Astronaut, and Physicist. Second African-American in space. 5th Degree Black Belt in Karate. Saxophonist in an 18-piece swing band made up of space center employees. Married to Cheryl. Two children: Reginald and Joy.