"Where were you on January 28, 1986, when the Challenger exploded? How did you find out? How did you feel?"
Wow, this still brings up so many emotions for me. I think that it was the single-most devastating event that I had ever witnessed. Not nearly as many people died, but it impacted me more than the events of September 11.
It was my day off from working at my father-in-law's Western Auto Store. I was at home and great with child. It was January and the baby was due in June. I was constantly sick and felt like a blimp already.
I was in the living room and the television was on as I was doing some picking up around the room. Then I saw it, the shuttle on the screen. It went up and then I was confused. I didn't know what was happening. I had never watched a shuttle take off before, but I was pretty sure what I was seeing wasn't a good thing.
It was like a firework had been launched and the streams of smoke were going in different directions and I knew it was bad. The shuttle was gone; the people inside incinerated. It was horrible. I was crying and couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. I didn't want to remember, but couldn't get it out of my head. I had just watched people get blown to bits and it was real, not made up TV drama and they were dead.
What about those little kids watching because their teacher was in there? What about the spouses and children (grandchildren) that were watching their loved one go up there?
How do you recover from witnessing such a thing? It still brings tears to my eyes and I didn't even know these people. How much more must it hurt those who loved the ones inside Challenger?
If the decision had been mine to make, I would have packed it up right then. No more shuttle missions, at least no more with living beings inside; no humans, no animals, just machines if it had to be.
That morning is burned into my memory and heart forever.
Rest in peace, Christa, and all of you lost that day. May Our Father bless the families left behind.
Video source: By NASA[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons