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20 years

20 ago today, I was sitting in my parent's house (where I still lived) playing a full simulated season of Major League baseball on my Commodore 64 with some friends.

This is how the news appeared that day:

The American space shuttle, Challenger, has exploded killing all seven astronauts on board. The five men and two women - including the first civilian in space - were just over a minute into their flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida when the Challenger blew up.

The astronauts' families, at the airbase, and millions of Americans witnessed the world's worst space disaster live on TV.

The danger from falling debris prevented rescue boats reaching the scene for more than an hour.

In 25 years of space exploration seven people have died - today that total has been doubled.

President Ronald Reagan has described the tragedy as "a national loss".

The Challenger's flight, the 25th by a shuttle, had already been delayed because of bad weather. High winds, then icicles caused the launch to be postponed from 22 January.

But Nasa officials insist safety remains their top priority and there was no pressure to launch the shuttle today.

The shuttle crew was led by Commander Dick Scobee, 46. School teacher Christa McAuliffe, 37, married with two children, was to be the first civilian in space - picked from among 10,000 entries for a competition.

Speaking before the launch, she said: "One of the things I hope to bring back into the classroom is to make that connection with the students that they too are part of history, the space programme belongs to them and to try to bring them up with the space age."

President Reagan has put off his state of the union address. He was meeting senior aides in the Oval Office when he learned of the disaster.


We will never forget them

US President Ronald Reagan






He has called for an immediate inquiry into the disaster but he said the space programme would go on - in honour to the dead astronauts. Vice-President George Bush has been sent to Cape Canaveral to visit the victims' families.

This evening, the president went on national television to pay tribute to the courage and bravery of the seven astronauts.

He said: "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."

We weren't paying attention to the television. My mother, ever the space buff, was watching the launch. I heard her gasp. I looked up at the tv. I froze.

Nobody moved for a long time. Nobody spoke. It was one of the most horrifying, saddest moments of my life. To witness that, to see the flames and sparks and the smoke, and to know that you not only just watched people die, but you were witnessing a depressing piece of history - the moment was overwhelming. I have never forgotten it. I don't even need to watch the video because it is so firmly etched in my mind.

One of those where were you moments that seem to stand still in your mind forever.

20 years.

Comments

God, has it really been twenty years?

I think that was the first of those "where were you" moments that I was really old enough to remember. (I don't know where I was when Reagan was shot, for instance.)

The first I heard of it was at work when someone came up to me and actually had a Challenger disaster joke. I didn't get it. I mean, I hadn't even heard the news yet and there were already jokes. We humans are freakin' strange!

Study hall in middle school. We were in the school library, and from each period, a couple were selected to go into the back room and play on the Commodore 64 and watch television. They saw the launch, and the news filtered out right before we went to lunch. Sixth hour, when I was in pre-alg, the principal made an announcement.

Steeped in sci-fi, we lose sight of how dangerous an endeavor space flight is, and unfortunately whenever we suffer a loss, we quit for a couple years.

Home. Sick (I think that was the same day I was diagnosed with asthma). Watching Bob Barker when Dan Rather broke in with the news.

Gut-wrenching to say the least.

I was too dumb to understand the situation. The teacher wheeled in a tv and we watched. Made for good gallows humor on the playground.

I was roughly half my present age when I was on a vacation with my parents (yes, that's right: how pathetic!). We were visiting their friends who lived outside of Orlando. Rudy said 'a minute or so after the shuttle lifts off, you can see it from my backyard.' So we waited for the Challenger to launch.

And waited.

Delayed.

Delayed again. One after another.

It was a comparatively bitter day for the region (compared to a NY'er like me, it was mild). After a time it was decided we were to forgo the lift-off and head off somewhere (a restaurant, perhaps?). Disappointed (in more ways than one) we left Rudy's backyard.

In the car we heard the news bulletin about the disaster. 73 seconds after liftoff. We would have had a perfect view of the explosion.

To this day, I can't say whether missing the chance to actually wittness the explosion was a good thing or not.

I was the system admin for Carleton College. I was sitting in the computer center when I heard the news. I went out and mentioned it to everyone. One student looked up and said "So? People are dying every day, why are they special?" I was totally stunned.

We need to get off this planet to survive our stupidity. While you can argue the how part (private? public? national? international?), those on the Challenger were on the front lines, doing the real work of our long term survival. For that I am sorrowed by their deaths and grateful for their efforts. And all those that followed.

Something told me to come by here today . . . I was in English class, freshman year of high school when we heard.

I was an Airman at Nellis AFB NV and we were listening to the office radio when the news broke in. I went to my dorm room for lunch and watched the footage. I went back to work and told my supervisor that there was no way in hell there were any survivors, I didn't know why the radio kept talking like there could be.

I heard it then and I'll say it again:
What's "NASA" stand for?
Need Another Seven Astronuts.

You ever hear that saying "there's a time and a place?"

This is neither/nor.

i was in 6th grade, studying for a spelling bee during recess. the announcement came over our brand-new intercom system. i was stunned. i think our teacher cried a bit. wow, 20 years.

I was in college, driving to my parent's house after my last class of the day when the radio announcer said "some important news about the shuttle launch after this message." I thought it strange, but before they came back with the news, I had walked into my parent's kitchen - my mom was crying. She had watched the whole thing on TV. I was glued to the news reports for the rest of the day.

20 Years. And you know what? 2001 will seem just as recent in 2021.

I'd go prostrate and fling my ass on the geround, but we wouldn't buy that, would we?

(slams ass onto ground)

Sorry, Michele, if I caused any pain.

You know me, kinda. I ain't wrapped like that

If I should proffer aplogies, point me.

Oh, and beat the bejeebuz out of my spellchecking version of Jane Hathaway.
I don't deny: I am signed on the bottmo line out of my mind.. Gotta call Percy first.

Queen's like my ...lawyer.

You're gonna just beat me like drum, ain't cha?