25 years ago

…about this time, I was at Refrigeration Research in Brighton MI, the place where I used to work, trying to peddle some junk-bond-based mutual funds for First Investors, the place I was working for at the time. I don’t recall if I found out there, or when I got back to the car. I hadn’t paid much attention up until then; people had been going into space, mostly successfully, most of my life, and it was no big deal anymore. Sure, there was all that “first teacher in space” hoopla, but I’d grown up being unimpressed by teachers, and saw no reason I should be impressed then. So when it happened, I sorta went “Oh shit…that’s really sad”, but  it never occurred to be to write a Challenger memorial piece.

At the time it was (and became more so) All About Christa.  If you ask the man on the street who was on the Challenger, the list will begin (if it begins at all) and end with McAuliffe (unless you’re an Akronite, in which case you might remember Judith Resnik). At the time, we sensed there was something wrong with that, which is where the jokes all came from.

What were Christa McAuliffe’s last words? “Gee, what does THIS button do?”

Did you know Christa McAuliffe had blue eyes? One blew here, one blew over there.

The tragedy wasn’t in the lives lost, unless they were friends or family. How many times have we lost 7 or more military at a time? We don’t commemorate that 25 years later. The tragedy was that it ended our belief in technological miracles. We learned that NASA was just as screwed up as any other part of government, that private engineers could say there was a problem but the suits upstairs would reliably bend over for the state. That loss of innocence is worth remembering and mourning today.

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One Response to 25 years ago

  1. Rob Robertson says:

    The starter had gone out on my Plymouth, so I had to take the day off to make repairs. I remember the day clearly; the young, attractive woman I’d picked up hitchhiking in Salem, and the opportunity she presented when she invited me in for coffee; the expansiveness of the day with no ties, no obligations beyond digging through snow and wrenching on my car in the parking lot of Analogic to rescue my baby; and the moment I’d stopped at my mother’s house in Peabody to warm up before my work and turning on the television just as Challenger twisted through the air and blew up on live national television.

    As a boy I’d watched the Saturn V rockets take off and dreamed of someday working in space, and the Space Shuttle program had excited me from the moment I’d read about it in ’76. When I saw the Challenger explode I of course was sad for the loss of life, but my main concern was about the setback to the Shuttle program.

    Two days later, driving through Lynn, I heard on the radio that among the other astronauts on board was Dr. Judy Resnick, and instantly tears filled my eyes such that I could not see the road in front of me and had to pull over before I caused an accident. You see, she was my hero, from what little I knew of her. She and a friend had breezed through school and college, picking courses and directions that seemed to magically lead to life as an astronaut in NASA in much the same way I’d always hoped my life would go. No force, no strain, just directing her abundant energy to the fulfillment of her desires.

    At times I have a very dark sense of humor, but those jokes never provoked any reaction, positive or negative, within me. I just always warmly remembered a beautiful, vibrant woman who lived her life by her own lights, and who to this day still holds a light for me to follow as well.

    God bless you, Judy. Peace be with you.

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