Memories of the Challenger

This is one page of many, check out the intro at I Remember Challenger for others.

This page currently edited by: Dagwood. Past editor: Junior

Seventeen years is so long ago, but only yesterday. As I write this, it's February 3, 2002. Two days ago, I woke up rather late and turned on the clock-radio next to my bed--it's always set on a news station, as I like to keep up with current events. As soon as the speaker came to life, I heard " this point we're still not sure what happened to Columbia." My first thought, edited for content -- "Oh F--- me, not again!!!" I was instantly awake and I flew to both the television and the internet, trying to find more information. The CNN feed was on one of the stations and it was showing a continuous loop in one on-screen window of the single upper-atmospheric contrail splitting off into more and more contrails as the camera panned across the sky. I sat mesmerized as I took in the bulk of information available at the onset and stayed as the new information slowed to a trickle. We will be hearing about this for days, weeks I'm sure, however it stands a remarkably good chance of winding up on Page Two or somewhere thereabouts as concerns about the economy, Iraq and terrorism still mark the front pages everywhere. I'm 30 years old right now. I was 13, in eighth grade, when the Challenger was destroyed. I had just come from lunch and sat down in Mr. Pitts's 5th Hour Social Studies class. His typical greeting as he came into the room was "Well, good afternoon, sports fans." Today, no such geeky repartee came forth as Mr. Pitts entered the room with a very sullen look. I could tell something was wrong but still didn't have a clue at that late time what it was. He announced, "for those who hadn't heard already," that the shuttle had exploded. We talked for a few minutes in class about it, after the initial shock wore off, but we exhaused our questions and Mr. Pitts's store of knowledge on the subject. We tried, half-heartedly, to continue studying post-revolutionary America that day, but soon class was over and the Shuttle dominated the rest of the day's gossip and class sessions. I even heard the first couple sick and crude shuttle/nasa/astronaut jokes that day. They earned laughs from some of the 'thugs' of the school, but I just looked on dumbfounded as they joked about the incident. For those who weren't alive at the time of the Challenger or were too young to experience the full breadth of it, The Challenger hit us as hard seventeen years ago, minus the concerns for our own safety, as the World Trade Center attacks hit us all seventeen months ago. I remember being transfixed by the news, listening to all experts, trying to wrap my brain around o-rings and SRB's and structural failures and the speed and height and deceptive smallness of the image of the Y-cloud. These past few days, I've hardly been able to engage a single person in a discusson of Columbia. Life is going on--work, rehearsals, recitals, paying bills, having a good time, sports, all these things, and I'm struck with a bit of strange historical perspective. Have we, as a nation, become so enmeshed in our own problems, so distant from the exploration of the final frontier, so numbed by other recent tragedies that the fiery loss of seven brave astronauts, the first reusable spacecraft in history, countless experiments and a symbol of American ingenuity given physical form gives us nothing more than a moment's pause and a "d-mn, that's a shame" reaction? To all who would take on the mantle of challenging the unknown bravely, I salute you. To those who have paid the ultimate price for such a challenge, I won't forget you.

From: Sean Leistico

To the astraunats it is great to die for a worthy cause and a research of what would be termed as future of my kind.

From: charles ochieng auma

I was sitting on my desk, faced toward the back of the room. Students from the two other 3rd grade classrooms were sitting in spare chairs and on the floor. There was only one TV per grade and I was glad that it was our turn to have the TV in our room. We had horrible, horrible reception, and little, if any, sound. We all sat there staring up at the screen, but we didn't know what we were looking at. Literally. At least I didn't. After a few minutes, the teachers all started talking to each other and walking around in circles. The TV was turned off, wheeled away, and my teacher started a lesson. I recall the adults looking ill - they were mumbling to each other and everything was I thought, "Now what the heck was that for. We didn't see anything." It wasn't until later that day that I learned the news, and what it meant. Interesting, one of the fifth grade teachers was in the semi-finals for being picked. And I remember, learning that right before the launch, I felt bad for her that she didn't make it all the way. I had Ms. Reid when I was in fifth grade. She was my favorite teacher, and in the 8th grade for a California exam, I wrote my paper about her. The Challenger Explosion didn't come up.

From: Kari

I don't think I'll ever forget this day... I went to a Catholic grade school and students who lived nearby were allowed to go home for lunch. Most kids who went home that day didn't come back, but one girl -- Cathy Gagne -- did. She came into the classroom crying and told Sister Theresa Anna -- our teacher -- that the shuttle exploded. This nun was a little crazy to start with, but this news pushed her over some edge... She (a nearly six foot tall nun in a habit) climbed onto the desk at the front of the room, ordered the class to get on their knees, and very volumously began reciting the rosary... They released us early that day... I went home and sat in front of the TV, watching and thinking and crying and wondering what use praying was -- given how horrible a thing had happened...

From: Nicole

Here is what I wrote: The lives of seven honored people, The deaths of seven precious heroes, the loss of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. May they Rest In Peace.

From: lily*

Regretfully, it took the loss of the Columbia, two days ago, to bring back my own memory of the Challeger space shuttle. And to those 14 astronauts aboard both vessels, you'll never be forgotten. Our principal wheeled a television set and VCR into Ms. Leaper's first grade classroom that afternoon. The school had one VCR for the whole elementary, and one by one, the explosion was wheeled to each room. Being only six, I cannot remember what was said to console us, what was done with the remainder of the school day, or even how out teacher reacted. I simply remember the sound of silence for the first time; a class of first graders understanding national tragedy. May we never forget.

From: Jeremy Pickens

I remember hearing about it from another guy in school; he said, very clearly: "Estalló el Challenger"... The Challenger exploded. I said "Yeah, sure" and went on my way. Later, I realized that I should have known it was true from the start; in Mexico, in those days, everybody said "El Columbia" when talking about the shuttle, and very few at school besides the resident nerd (me) even knew the names of the other orbiters. This guy said "It's true, there's a TV at Miss X's room and the news is on". I went there and saw "The Y" and felt like my guts had taken a sudden trip to the floor. Later that day, I was called to the principal's office... I don't even remember why, but everybody was asking me questions about how and why it had happened, and I was as clueless as any of them. I also remember going home to the NASA press conference on TV when I got there...

From: Hans Peter Averdung López

I remember...I was in eighth grade. The shuttle mission was a huge deal at the time, simply because it would mark the occasion when the first teacher into space. I remember the principal of my school making the announcement over the intercom. Never in my life have I experienced such complete and total silence as after he said that the Challenger had exploded. The video played on TV constantly... In the days after the explosion, the one thing that really sticks in my mind is a photograph that was published in a magazine. It showed a blond girl, crying her eyes out, and President Reagan consoling her. I remember thinking that it was a shame that someone as pretty as she was should have to hurt so much. When I heard about Columbia, it was much the same...I was speechless. Still don't know what to think, actually, other than my heart goes out to the families of the crew.

From: Pat

I remember the Challenger tragedy well. I was 8 years old. I was home early from school and was flipping channels on the tv. I came across the news and they were about to broadcast the launch of Challenger. I've always had an interest in space so I watched. I was so excited because I'd never seen a lauch of a space shuttle. And then it happened....The explosion. It was the most awful thing to witness. I didn't relize then what I had seen until they announced what had happened.I didn't know what to do. I cried. That same year I went to Florida and my father took me to Kennedy Space Center. I wanted the picture of the crew and a replica of their patch. Once I had these items I felt a sense of closure. I still have those things packed away and I look forward to sharing my story with my children and grandchildren. May God bless the crew from Challenger and let it be known that these were not just my heros but they are our nation's heros.

From: Amy

I watch Challenger go down on live TV. Having watched, followed and learned everything about the space program since age 7 (1965), I was in shock and mortified.

From: Charles Cacioppo

I was not alive for the tragedy but I was related to the teacher that had gone up there and died. RIP CHALLENGER ASTRONAUTS.

From: Casey

I was a U.S. Navy A-6E Bombardier Navigator serving at sea aboard the USS Midway. I woke up one morning, got dressed and walked to our squadron's ready room. As I entered into the ready room, an image of Challenger Teacher Christa McAuliffe on the TV across the room captured my attention. They were talking about how great she was and how she will be missed. I figured she had died in an auto accident or something. I asked the duty officer what happened to her. He told me Challenger had exploded. I couldn't believe it. I watched a while longer and then came all the replays... That was really disturbing for the crew.

From: Dave

I remember sitting on the floor in my 5th grade class at Bent Tree Elementary (Miami) when the Challenger went down. At the time, even though I was young, I understood what a profound effect this had on me and my country. I never thought this would happen again, but it did. When I heard about Columbia I was in a Walmart in Naples, FL. I stood in shock and could not believe that this had happened again and so close to the date when the Challenger went down. I would like to let both families of these terrible events to know that I pray for them and mourn with them. These astronauts are heroes and I hope the space program will go on. I would not want their deaths to be in vain. On a special note, I would like to tell all children who lost their mother or father that your parents died doing something they loved and even though they are gone, they are watching over you and they love you very much and you will never be without them in your heart. God bless to all the families and my deepest sympathy. Laura Briz Miami, FL.


I was watching it at Blenmen Ele. in Tucson Arizona. One of our teachers (so I was told) had tried out for the "teacher" seat on the Challenger, so the entire school was watching. I myself dreamed of going to space and was thrilled to get to watch the launch at school. Then it happened, and I sat there with my mouth wide open. I remember going down the hall, woundering, replaying the event over and over in my head. Someone stopped me and asked me what I was doing in the hall and I said "the space shuttle blew up" and the teacher looked at me and said "when?" I replied "just now on tv, over there (pointing to my classroom)" She ran in there and after about 30 seconds I heard a scream. Everyone came running then. I went back in that room and watched with just about everyone else in the school, the tv until it was time to go home. It is the only event of the 80's other then my friends murder in 85 that will bring me to tears even to this day. God bless all the familes of the Challenger and the crew, know that not only I but just about everyone who has written here keeps you in our hearts and prayers. THEY WILL NEVER EVER BE FORGOTTEN! Do you remember where you were when the Challenger went down? it is our generations question.

From: Vanessa

Where was I when the Shuttle Challenger exploded? That's easy for me to remember despite the fact that I remember so very little of my youth. I was 22 and attending the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO. I was enrolled in UNC's Broadcast School. Where was I when the Shuttle Challenger exploded? I was sitting at a makeshift broadcast studio desk from where the students would broadcast events to the campus over closed-circuit TV. This was used for teaching/training. My teacher, Charles Ingold, was so excited to have tapped into the live NASA feed of the Shuttle liftoff. He was allowing the students to do "Live" announcing of the event. Each student was to get 3 minutes at a time to do his/her story. I was the first to get to sit at the desk and announce. I was broadcasting the launch "Live" over the airwaves across our campus. Things were going so well for me, my initial TV broadcast and the launch. I had started at the 10 second countdown to launch and just kept going. 73 seconds later, my world, the world of the 7 astronauts, and the lives of people all over the world changed forever! Just after the explosion, I simply stopped talking for what seemed like minutes, but in reality was only seconds. I froze up I guess. Then I said "Holy Shit, It's Gone!". I stopped talking after that. The cameras were turned off as were the bright broadcast lights. It was the first time I was able to see past the camera at the rest of the class and my teacher, and what I saw was total disbelief and tears on the faces of my fellow classmates and teacher. It was then that I realized I had begun to cry. Mr. Ingold cancelled class for the rest of the day, and we all headed back to our dorms, houses or bars. Later that week, we all gathered back in the classroom to discuss "Live Broadcasting". Mr. Ingold had said if he had been grading me that day, he would have failed me for what I said "live on-air", but he gave me another chance to try it again using a tape of the liftoff and subsequent explosion. I got a B, but realized that week that I did NOT want to be a TV Broadcaster, because the news could be just too painful! I knew I could hide my emotions much better on radio.

From: Hans C. Mugler III

I was in the sixth grade when Challenger exploded. I have never forgotten a moment of that day, as I had dreams of becoming an astronaut from the time I was in first grade up until I was eighteen. When I tried to join the navy, I learned I had a heart condition that would keep me out of astronaut training. We were on a field trip that day. We had just gotten on the bus to go home when one of the teachers stood up and said "I have some very sad news. The space shuttle exploded shortly after launch this morning." We then held a moment of silence for the lost seven, made more poignant by the fact that one of the fourth grade teachers at our school had been a finalist for the teacher in space program. I remember sitting on the bus the entire way home, feeling as though I had been punched in the stomach. By the next day, horrible, morbid jokes were circulating in the schoolyard. I was infuriated, and adopted a policy of punching anyone who told such jokes. After being threatened with expulsion, I stopped doing that, but I would always be overwhelmed with a sickening rage when I heard those jokes. And now, another seven have been lost. When I turned on the television that Saturday morning, I was overwhelmed by a horrific sense of deja vu. Godspeed to those that push the limits of human endurance, exploration, and understanding, and who do so with courage and honor, in the face of incredible danger. Godspeed to our astronauts.

From: Debbie

I was 9 yrs. old and in 4th grade when the Challenger exploded. My class had just gotten back from eating lunch when my teacher Mrs. Bailey had told us what happened. Later that evening I remember going home and seeing the Pepsi commercial where the space shuttle took off spawning the slogan "The Choice Of A New Generation." I couldn't believe that the commercial was being aired after what happened. A couple of weeks after the tragedy our class wrote letters to one of the families of "The Challenger 7." I wrote to Christa McAullife's family. I think we all got responses back a couple of months later.

From: Meredith N.

I was born on the exact same day that the Challenger exploded, so I don't remember a thing. My mom told me that while she was in labor she was watching tv and saw the footage over and over and over. Even though I don't remember it I feel connected to the crew in a way. And now seventeen years later, around the same time, the Columbia also had an accident. I pray that God will take care of the lost lives and that he will bless the left behind family members.

From: Whitney

I was not born when the shuttle blew up but when I learned about it was very startling to me. I am 11 now but I was very little when I heard about it. We are now learning about the Challenger in school and everyday we learn something different everday in school.

From: Nicholas Higgins

I remember that day very well... I had just completed my college courses and the following May I would recieve my BS in elementary education - just months before that, ALL of us in my classes were talking about how envious we were of Christa McAullife. Half of me STILL was jealous of her, half of me thankful it that I was not HER. But, that tragedy will NEVER get away from her children - who had a great mom, a teacher, she was going out to make a statement for the world of education. Well, a statement was made - no civilian will ever go into space again if it is for NASA purposes. With the recent tragedy of The Columbia - who knows what will happen next with space exploration. However, I will say this: the cost of an "O Ring" - like 9 cents in 1986.... was supposedly the reason why the Challenger failed.... 9 cents for 7 lives.... you all can do the math... God Bless ALL of those lives lost, the Challenger and the Columbia. May all of your brave souls rest in peace!

From: PhoneLitter

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