While reminiscing on the shuttle program here on GeekMom, it was hard not to think about where we were and what we were doing when Challenger exploded.
Helene McLaughlin (Me)
I was only three and a half when it happened, so I have no memory of the actual event. However, I remember being very young and there being a lot of talk about the shuttle program and I remember people talking about it with sadness. It wasn’t till I was a few years older and learned about the disaster in school, that I understood why they were so sad.
I was working the drive-through at the Burger King near where I was attending college when the Challenger exploded. One of my drive-through customers told me about it.
I said “Not the shuttle flight with the teacher?” They said, “Yes, it’s terrible.”
After I got off-shift, I went home and saw the video. I also talked to some friends who I knew in the Coast Guard much later. One of them was stationed on a ship that did search and recovery for the Challenger. He told me that they knew very quickly after the explosion that it was entirely possible the crew had survived the fall until they were killed on impact, which in fact turned out to be the case.
I was fascinated at the time by what could have happened to cause the explosion and later appalled that it was something simple as the O-rings being vulnerable to cold. I followed much of the later reports about how the warning signs had been ignored.
I was in middle school (7th grade) when the Challenger exploded. The only reason I didn’t actually see it live on TV was because my part of the school had lunch during that time. So half the school saw the explosion on TV, half of us heard about it during our next class (which happened to be science…my usually unemotional Mrs. Kelly got pretty emotional).
We were watching it in math class. I was in middle school. My mother had applied to go so it was very emotional for me when it exploded.
I was in school and remember my teacher bringing in a TV to watch the coverage. I had just read a book on women who had won the the Nobel prize and was idolizing Marie Curie, Irene Curie, Pearl S. Buck, and others. I viewed Christa McAuliffe as belonging to that same category of role models, at a time when I was really searching for someone to look up to. I admired her, and was horrified by her death.
I was sitting in French class watching the whole thing on TV and it was devastating when the Challenger exploded. I can hardly watch that even today. Christa McAuliffe was a local teacher, we idolized her and just couldn’t believe it. It was sad, but at the same time inspiring. She risked it all and lost, but left such an example of what a woman could achieve. I still look at her as a hero.
I was a freshman in college when the Challenger disaster happened. I was an elementary education major, so the fact that a teacher was going up into space was exciting. I returned from morning classes to find my roommate glued to the tiny TV in our dorm room.
When I walked in the door she turned to me and said three simple words, “It blew up.”
It didn’t process in my brain. I said, “What? What blew up?”
“The space shuttle. It blew up on take off.”
It took me a long time, and hours in front of the TV, watching the video replay, over and over, to comprehend what that meant. In my mind, there was no chance a space shuttle could ever blow up. It just wasn’t even possible, with all the expertise we had in our space program.
The first moon walk was when I was a two year old, so I grew up believing NASA was all powerful, and never failing. It didn’t make sense, in my safe, ordered world, that a tragedy like this could happen, and a teacher, one of us, could die in such an accident.
I later married a man who is from New Hampshire, and heard his stories, about how it had affected his state, the teacher’s hometown. Every time we found out about an award, or an event, honoring her, I thought of that moment, in my dorm room, when my view of how the world works changed forever.
Ironically, my husband’s brother, my brother-in-law, is a planetarium designer and he helped design the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium.
These were the memories of the GeekMoms. What is your memory of the Challenger Disaster? Where were you? What were you doing? What effect did it have on you?