I update this blog post each year on the anniversary of the Challenger disaster.
Was it really 34 years ago today?
Perhaps we Americans had become complacent about the space shuttle program; every time one had gone up, it had come home safely. And on this January day in 1986, the Challenger, with an elementary teacher as part of the crew, roared off the launch pad in Florida.
Seventy-three seconds later, it exploded.
Ours is a country that turns to its president in times of grief. President Reagan delivered what many presidential historians and journalists believe was his best national address. He reminded us the crew believed in the seemingly endless possibilities that space offered us. He added that despite the accident the country would not abandon its exploration of space. But ultimately he asked us to remember the crew as pioneers and heroes.
We often ask people where they were when they heard about a terrible event. I was in the spring semester of my freshman year at the University of Southern California, and as I did most mornings when I got to campus, I turned on my portable radio to get a news update. On that morning I was sitting outside the university’s main library. I’m sure a kind-of stupefied look came over my face. The space shuttle was not supposed to blow up, especially with a teacher on board and elementary-aged children watching all over the country.
“Roger, Challenger. Go with throttle up.” I still get chills when I read or hear them.