This week’s flashback has a new, and thought provoking, theme. “Where were you when…?” The prompt comes via Cahterine and Tracey, “Our parents’ generation can recall exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot - it’s a cultural moment that defines a generation. What big cultural event occurred during your childhood/youth that you recall clearly, if juvenilely? What was its impact on you?” Living only 15 minutes from NASA in Houston, this is the first thing that came to mind. The Challenger.
I remember being in class, Mrs. Pear’s Class, Fifth Grade. As usual on launch days, she ushered us in to the library where several of the older classes sat around the large color TV (the ones with the huge antenna and turn knobs for channel surfing) while we waited for the controller to count down. “10 - 9 - 8” We all counted with him. “7 - 6 - 5” Several of the students’ parents were astronauts or worked at NASA. As a community so close to it, we were large supporters of the space program. “4 - 3 - 2 - 1” We all yelled “LIFT OFF!” and watched the familiar ball of fire lift from the ground.
Then, and I remember not seeing it happen, as I turned to my friend and started talking, someone gasped. Someone else yelled out “NO!” Then, as I watched, the ball of fire broke off in two and fell to the ground.
And then it’s really a blur. Since this shuttle was the first to launch the “Teacher in Space” program, our school was even more affiliated with this historical day. One of our teachers had been chosen a finalist for the position, we had reporters in our school and were instructed not to talk to them. The day went on and on. There was confusion and sadness. We knew we were supposed to be sad, all the adults were sad, but we didn’t really understand what was happening in our elementary school.
A few days later there was a memorial at NASA. My Mom picked up my sister and I from school and told us we were going to stop by. I remember not wanting to go. All my friends would be in gymnastic now. “But I can’t miss gymnastics!” I said. At 11 years old, my world revolved around me, my friends, and me again. This huge historical event and the TV cameras, press, and news paper journalist weren’t of any importance. What I really wanted, was for everything to get back to normal.
But we did go, my Mom tried to instill a bigger perspective in my fifth grade brain than the tight self-inclusive one I was in. And she took this picture, which I think says it all.
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**In doing some research for the names of programs and such, I found an artticle where my princaple, Mary Ward, told reporters we didn’t watch the explosion and that each student was told individually. Interesting. That’s not how it went down at the time. I’m sure it sounds better in the paper that way.
So your sister was really impacted, I see!
By Oh, The Joys on 2008 03 21
That photo is priceless in more ways than one.
By Dana on 2008 03 21
The challenger was the first thing I thought of before I even got to your sentence about it! We were vacationing in Florida at the time. I remember being in the hotel room and watching that happen and writing about it afterwards. But no idea what I wrote!
By Carrie on 2008 03 21
I remember that so well! I’m sure we still have the newspaper for that day. I think most of us around our age remember that first and foremost. Such a tragedy. How interesting to read the perspective of a student so close to the situation!!! Thanks for sharing!
By Sadie on 2008 03 21
I so knew when you said “Our Parents JFK” that it was the Challenger. I was at the swimming pool waiting in line for the bus to go back to school…I was in the third grade, and I remember that they let us out of school early because we had been “traumatized” by seeing it on TV. (So send us Oregonians home to watch it replayed over and over 1 million times and be less traumatized…WTH?) I can’t even imagine being as close as you were, and being in the “middle” of the frenzy. I love the picture of your sister…so appropriate of a little one at the time!!
By Faith on 2008 03 21
Me too. I was at recess when the Challenger tragedy occurred. My fifth grade teacher had watched in the teacher’s lounge and she told us what happened when we came back. we were stunned.
My two other events were the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980 (we were getting ready for church and I was mad that we couldn’t go to Sunday school out in Castle Rock). I was four. And the fall of the Berlin Wall…and President Reagan talking to the nation on the radio. We were in the car and mom said to remember it because it would be one for the history books.
By hilary on 2008 03 21
I was in my kitchen in Friendswood when I learned of the Challenger. It was also personal because some of the astronauts in the space program went to my church—Clear Lake Presby. Also, both little girls in the picture are familiar to me as I knew them. I especially knew the oldest as she was an everyday part of my family. Hi Honey. Your Mom gave me your blog site when I wrote to her wanting your address. I do hope you send me your address via e-mail to my husband at above address. I don’t do e-mail, rather I write letters. I’ve thought about you often, Sweetie, and wondered how you were. Love, Mrs. Keys.
By Mrs. Keys on 2008 03 22
Yup, I can remember where I was when I heard about the Challenger… Had been out at recess and then all of a sudden everyone had gone in, I must’ve missed the bell or whatever it was that signalled it was time to go in. (The only time that had ever happened.) So I go running into class and everyone in there is all sad-faced and the teacher was upset. I don’t think they had realized I hadn’t come in when I should’ve, so I think she was upset that she didn’t realize it. Anyhow, I just remember feeling like “It’s not MY fault!” As I think the teacher must’ve taken some of her angst out on me. As a second grader it somehow felt if I would have come in from recess on time, that tragedy wouldn’t have occurred.
By Holly on 2008 03 22
I was also in fifth grade, and I wanted to be an astronaut. I convinced my teacher to let us watch the launch in the library, and I remember the shock when we saw the fireball.
I still went to Space Camp two years later, although I lost my desire to be an astronaut in high school.
By Christina on 2008 03 22
I remember seeing it and years later I had a high school boyfriend who told me the teacher astronaut that died was his teacher and he saw all his friends crying on tv.
By Mrs Mogul on 2008 03 23
I was too young to really remember Challenger. For me, the event I remember vividly is 9-11 (I was 19 and in my second year of university).
By Mrs. Mustard on 2008 03 23
Too young to remember Challenger but I remember it was only about 6 days into my senior year in High school; it was the first class of the day for me World History and on comes the t.v. and most of the class thought we were watching a movie…well it wasn’t a movie it was the world trade centers 9-1-1. I remember all of our classes where spent with our eyes glued to the t.v. in shock!
By Veronica on 2008 03 23
I was a freshman in college when this happened (dang, now I feel OLD)...I was still sleeping (Michigan time) and my mom called me from work to tell me. I remember not understanding what she was saying…it didn’t make sense.
Ironically, not long before that I briefly dated a guy who is now an astronaut. Who’ll be heading into space later this year.
By Christine on 2008 03 23