Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, in which six astronauts and one schoolteacher lost their lives. Where were you when you heard the news or saw it on TV?
I was a sophomore at Delavan-Darien High School, a few months shy of sixteen. I was in the North Commons, our honors study hall. It is (or was, as I have no idea if DDHS has been remodeled since my time) a section of the hall blocked off by a pair of long white benches. Three or four rows of desks took up most of the space, and along the wall were several carrels where pairs of students could study together. The back of the North Commons was a glass wall looking out into the courtyard, but the desks were arranged so you faced the hall. The North Commons was located next to the small auditorium/AV Department. As I was studying, someone from the AV Department came out and told us the news, also inviting us to come down to the AV department and see the replay for ourselves. Over and over the explosion happened as we watched. At lunchtime, I told everyone I could about the accident.
This certainly wasn't the first piece of news that caught my attention, but it was one of those moments that sticks with you. Only 9/11 made more of an emotional impact on me. Years later, when I was in D.C. for my internship at the National Cancer Institute, one of my friends came down to visit. We went to Arlington National Cemetery, and one of the memorials I particularly wanted to see was the one to the Challenger's crew. I have a photo of myself next to it, but it's not scanned. I should ask Eugene to do that sometime.
It's going to be business as usual for me today, running errands after I post this, then returning home to clean and cook dinner before spending the evening at Barnes and Noble, but it seems appropriate to think about those who died on this day back in 1986. I also feel I should stress how important it is to check little details, especially those that affect safety. After all, it was for want of an O-ring that seven lives were lost. You never know what little details will change history.
Finally, let me end this entry with the names of the seven who gave their lives for space exploration:
Francis R. "Dick" Scobee
Michael J. Smith
Ronald E. McNair
Ellison S. Onizuka
Judith A. Resnik
Gregory B. Jarvis