I'm going to cheat just a little bit on this one today. I'll be talking about this anniversary that technically doesn't happen until tomorrow. But I'm backdating this post anyway. That means at the time you're reading this the anniversary would have already occurred. Even though it will be posted on the wrong date. So just ignore the posting date and enjoy it for what it is. Now that I have you sufficiently confused...
It doesn't seem like this event really happened a quarter of a century ago. It's funny how 25 year can just sneak up on you like that. Before long you're sitting there thinking about how you can remember things like they just happened yesterday. The truth is that many things do still feel like they occurred eons ago. However, there are events like the launch of the space shuttle Challenger that stick with you forever. It doesn't matter how much time has passed you will still very clearly recall where you were and what you were doing when it occurred.
For me I was in Mr. Mineart's Science class at good ol' Norwalk High School. I could be wrong about his name but I know I'm pretty close. I also remember that he always reminded me of Bluto from the Popeye cartoons with his appearance. He made sure to take a detour from the day's normal curriculum and have a tv brought into the classroom so we could watch the launch. Probably because not only was it science-related but also because it was the first time there was a civilian teacher on board. That was a rather big thing to all the teachers back then.
It started off like any other normal space shuttle launch we had already seen before on the news. Nothing out of the usual at all. They could have replayed any other launch from any other space shuttle prior to that and we would have never known the difference.
Until that 73 second mark.
When that explosion occurred I remember a couple of things rushing thru my mind simultaneously. First and foremost was that that clearly was NOT supposed to happen. The other was that I was almost certain that the astronauts had to have escaped in an some type of an escape pod. Maybe they knew something was going wrong onboard before we actually witnessed it and they were able to get out. I had watched enough sci-fi movies at that point to know that there was ALWAYS an escape pod. Not in real life though. Although the guy doing the play-by-the play of the event made the same comment so it was nice to know that I wasn't alone with that train of thought.
I can't honestly say I was terribly affected by the events of the day. I was only 15-years-old. Also, remember this happened in 1986 which was during the thick of the slasher craze in the movies. We were pretty much desensitized to seeing gore, violence and death. And I didn't know those folks at all. So it was just a little difficult for me to be emotionally vested. Plus, I think all of us were more awestruck by what happened more than anything else.
NASA has of course recovered since then. They've sent up countless space shuttles without incident. However, I don't ever remember another one being televised on a nationwide scale like Challenger was. They may have been back on track but they weren't running the risk of making that mistake again. I could be wrong about my recollection of that but I do know for a fact that there would never be another time they would ever interrupt class for us to watch a launch. That would be the first and last live one we would see as students. It was one that none of us would ever forget.