This morning on my way to work, I heard a news brief that gave me pause. Nineteen years ago today, The Challenger accident occurred.
I live in a NASA town. I have three family members and countless family friends that work or have worked for NASA. When you grow up so close to something as phenomenal as space flight, it can sometimes lose its shiny veneer, so I forget sometimes the memories buried deep. I was seven years old. I remember that it was a big deal. There was a real person, just like my teachers, going up into space. I was in second grade and it was the first time that we had different teachers for different subjects. All of the classes wanted to watch the shuttle launch, so each pod of teachers gathered their classes into one room, around a small 25 inch TV. We had moved the desks aside so that we could all sit on the floor. I remember the thrill of seeing the shuttle soar from the earth. But then there was an explosion of smoke. We stared, wide-eyed at the screen, unbelieving. My teachers had tears running down their faces. My small mind took awhile to understand what had happened. It was crushing. We all went about that day in a state of unbelief.
The next year, my school planted trees, one for each of the astronauts and the teacher who was with them, in the middle of our bus circle. They were hardy little saplings that we planted in remembrance. I drove by my school a few years ago and felt my heart constrict a bit to see those trees, now grown tall, standing over the children as they boarded their busses for home.