The Unauthorized Biography of Rosco P. Coltrane

When it's my moment in the sun, I won't forget that I am blessed, but every hero walks alone, thinking of more things to confess

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Location: Owensboro, Kentucky, United States

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

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It was 20 years ago today that the Challenger blew up. I look back and try to ponder what happened that day in Mrs. Scott's 3rd grade class. I can honestly say that I don't remember watching it in class, though we very well may have watched the crash. Funny how I remember watching teeth cleaning videos in that class, but I don't remember watching the shuttle explosion. It is one of the defining moments of my generation, the moment we are all supposed to remember where we were at. But I don't remember the event.

I do remember the aftermath. I remember the sadness that surrounded the school for the next few days. I remember other kids talking about what happened. Some kids said that it was the Russians, back when the Russians were the bad guys, that blew up the shuttle. The picture, the shot of the shuttle debris forking in two directions, in the newspaper the next day seems so real in my mind 20 years later that I have to check to make sure some of the newspaper ink isn't still on my fingers.

It struck a such a nerve.

Back then, astronauts were the coolest of cool. Even though every kid in America dreamed of being a baseball star, movie star, president, everyone knew that being an astronaut was 10 times cooler than any of those jobs. But now, I doubt any kids dream of being astronauts.

The thing that made the tragedy so real, the reason why there was such a pall over every school in America was because there was a teacher on board the shuttle. Though we all dreamed of being Astronauts, the chances were most kids would never have a star that burned that bright. But a teacher was on board. That meant that maybe someday, any number of kids who would never be as cool and smart enough to be an astronaut could be on a flight to outer space as a teacher. It made it more real, though I am sure none of us knew it at the time. That reality must have also been very tangible to our teachers as well, many of who put in an application to be the teacher on that flight. It must have hung over their heads for days and days afterwards as they were planning their science lessons and grading papers wondering how lucky they were to not be picked and a bit of shame for feeling such luck.

It was my generation's day that will live in infamy. The day will stand out simply because for the vast majority of my generation that was our innocence died. It was in the days afterwards that we learned of O-rings, but we learned a lot more than that.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sandy Mc said...

Thanks for sharing this Lafe. Casey our son was 3 yo and and he and I were watching it on TV. Of course as a young mom who grew up at the time of the early space missions I was "encouraging" our son to think about that possibility.

The Challenger disaster really did not influence him away, sadly it's more like you have shared...no one sees it as cool enough anymore.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Shelli said...

I remember busting into tears in my 2nd grade class and standing up, looking at the teacher saying "I BETTER RUN HOME, BECAUSE MY GRANDPA IS AN ASTRONAUT AND HE COULD BE HURT".

NO LIE... I REALLY SAID THAT!!

Yah, my grandpas were farmers and linen salesmen. Not astronauts. I was such a liar.

1:02 PM  

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