Every generation has certain moments.
The ones that we all ask one another, "Do you remember where you were when....?"
This morning, as I got ready to take my children to the bus stop while tweeting about the upcoming ALA awards, I was reminded of one of my moments.
January 28, 1986 ~ Challenger exploded and I remember being in Physical Science watching it as it happened. #challengerexplosion
— Jennifer Malphy (@jmalphy) January 28, 2013
Space and astronomy was one of my passions. Not that I ever thought I'd go into space, mind you, but I loved learning about the immensity of it all. I wrote poetry about the planets, read books about them, and had been doodling aliens and Saturn on my notebooks since I was in third grade. Thankfully, those poems have long since disappeared. I'm sure I wasn't nearly the wordsmith I thought I was.
My parents even allowed me to occasionally be late to school so I could see the Shuttle launches, back when they were new and exciting. This time, though, I was in school. There were televisions in the halls, and one in the office. I stopped to watch, once again mesmerized by the enormous blast of power it takes to rocket humanity toward the stars.
I watched with delight as the shuttle sped up into the air, taking with it the very first teacher. In eighth grade I didn't know that teaching would become my own calling, but I was still fascinated by Christa. When that moment came - that instant when the cloud burst apart - we glanced at one another in confusion. Challenger was so small, and so far away, that we didn't really know what had happened at first. Realization dawned slowly, and tears welled up. It wasn't the first space tragedy, but it was the first for me.
From that day on, I felt intense anxiety whenever I watched a shuttle launch. Even as late as last year, when I watched the final shuttles leap into space, I had to breath slowly to keep my heart rate down. Two of my students wanted to research space disasters this fall. When they called me over to watch a video they had found from the disastrous Challenger launch, they were surprised to see tears in my eyes. I wasn't surprised. Seeing those images, especially the video, brings it all back.
Humanity learns, and grows, and challenges itself to move on. I'm not a risk taker, but I honor the drive in the explorers among us. That drive that makes us keep trying to peek and see the next hill, the next ocean, the next planet. We must know. We must go, even when our lives are on the line.
I participate in the Slice of Life community with
Two Writing Teachers by sharing a slice of my life here each Tuesday.