Where were you on 28 January 1986?

I know that not everyone will remember that date. I also know that it will not hold the same significance for each person. Mostly, I’m writing this because I just wanted to share my memory of that day, and to pose the question to anyone who reads this and does remember so that you may also share your experience. It doesn’t have to be an eloquent piece, as mine most certainly will not be. Just your recollection of where you were, what you were doing at the time, and how it affected you (if it did). I do not wish for this thread to turn into a debate on the merits (or lack of) of space travel, NASA’s efforts, or anything similar. So if it seems to that track, I will ask the Mods to close this thread.

I was thirteen years old and in my last year of middle school in 1986. The pressures of high school were not yet looming in my mind, though I knew full well that my choices there could help me with this silly notion of someday becoming an astronaut. Several friends of mine had been fortunate enough to go to Space Camp, but my family, while not a poor family by any means, just really couldn’t afford to send me. Although, in the previous fall, we did have a one-day eighth grade class tour of the Huntsville Space & Rocket center. I was enamoured, to say the least.

My science class was split every day with lunch period at 11 AM. Our teacher usually ate her lunch in the library or in the teacher’s lounge. The cafeteria was located downstairs, beneath the library. On this particular day, we had shuffled our way down there, finished lunch, and were lining up on the stairs to go back to the classroom. That’s when Mr. Gass, the school custodian, was on his way downstairs and told us “the shuttle blew up”. Now, you have to understand, he was always one for joking around, so none of us believed him. But then we saw her … our teacher. She was visibly shaken and crying as she darted by the door, on her way from the library to the lounge. The news was true. I don’t know how far in the selection process she had made it, but I do know she had applied for the Teacher in Space. Her reaction was a natural one of shock and grief for the crew. And I’m sure thoughts of “it could have been me” ran through her mind as well.

The rest of that day was filled with images and memories. Just hours before, these seven astronauts, in their cobalt blue flight suits, were waving to the cameras as they boarded the space shuttle Challenger for STS-51L. And their mission began and ended in all of 70 seconds. It was surreal and confusing. I was too young to have experienced the disasters of the rocket era, and as far as I was concerned, these things just were not supposed to happen. Strangely enough, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in the astronaut program (engineering calculus would eventually do that).

Somehow, in the years since, I ended up becoming an architect rather than the astronaut I once dreamt of being. Though, to this day, my admiration and fascination with the space program has not faded. And each year I have taken a moment to remember the men and women lost, and their colleagues and families whose lives were forever changed. Then last year, on 1 February 2003, not a week after the 17th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, seven more brave souls were lost on their way home with shuttle Columbia on STS-107. So here is a brief, humble remembrance of both crews.

Francis R. Scobee, Commander
Michael J. Smith, Pilot
Judith A. Resnik, Mission Specialist
Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist
Ellison S. Onizuka, Mission Specialist
Gregory B. Jarvis, Payload Specialist
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist (Teacher in Space)

Rick D. Husband, Commander
William C. McCool, Pilot
Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander
David M. Brown, Mission Specialist
Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist
Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist
Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist

I was at work and did not have a radio. Someone several cubes over did, though. I thought I overheard him saying to another co-worker, “The shuttle blew up” or something like that. I assumed I had misheard him. But no. . .

Ten years later, on January 28, 1996 at the Super Bowl (Pittsburgh-Dallas), the F-16 flyover featured Dick Scobee’s son flying the missing man formation.

I was in my junior year of college. I was chatting with other students in an art classroom when someone walked in and said that the shuttle was gone. Disbelief and then sorrow were the two emotions I remember best.

10th grade, first afternoon period. Believe it or not, U.S. History. The teacher brought in the T.V. cart so we could watch the footage. She talked about being our age when Kennedy was killed and that this would be that moment for us. She was right.

It came as a huge shock to me. I had always had a keen interest in the space program. To that point, I thought that the shuttle missions were pretty infallible. My perception was shattered. I finally realized how dangerous it really was, and still is, as we learned last year.

Almost 20 years later, it still hurts.

I was in 5th grade. I had returned to my “regular” class from my “gifted-and-talented” :snort: class. A classmate tried to mouth the news to me but it wasn’t until after school and watching the footage over and over with my mother did it sink in.

Definitely one of the most significant memories of my childhood.

At work. Fiona came out of the darkroom and said that the shuttle had blown up. We listened to the news on the big radio. I couldn’t believe it until I got home and WATCHED it on TV.

I don’t remember what grade I was in but it was a snow day. Me and my neighbor/classmate had been outside playing in the snow and we came in to watch the shuttle launch. We were familiar with what was going on since the first teacher was going to go into space.

When it blew up, we didn’t know that that wasn’t supposed to happen. We thought it was what shuttles were supposed to do.

Taking a break from work to watch the launch. I still watch launches whenever I can find them, it’s just so cool.

I had just broken up with the girl I was seeing, so my moods were all over the place anyways.

Well, all my problems faded into the background when the news cameras showed the faces of Christa’s parents and students as the realisation of what had happened slowly sunk in.

I cried like a baby. For the loss of loved ones, for the spirit of exploration which sometimes demands so much, for being made aware of the gift of life yet one more time… I’m such a wuss. But, that day’s events really got to me.

I saw the reports on morning TV, here in Auckland. The endless replays of the disaster. I was in a bad place mentally and emotionally, my mother was very sick. I thought about what had happened all that day – and it helped my mind clear, because it was a reminder that there are more important things out there in the world that my own cares.

I do remember the date well. I was en route to work (Pacific Standard Time) when I heard the news. My then fifteen-year-old daughter had run away from home and was into drugs (meth, mainly). When I realized that the teacher was among those who were among the dead, I pulled over and sobbed for ‘what could have been.’ My daughter had always wanted to be a veterinarian and I thought there were two lives that hadn’t been fulfilled. I cried for my potential veterinarian as well as for those aboard the shuttle.

My firm moved a TV into the lobby so that the employees could watch the news coverage, but once there, I couldn’t watch it.

Hijack and update: On the 17th of February, 1986, I located her and had her arrested for stealing from me and she was sent to juvenile hall. I hired an attorney and through court proceedings ensured that she was sentenced to juvenile drug rehab. She is now thirty-three years old and has been clean and sober since February 17, 1986. She is a college grad and is Deputy Director for a county funded alcohol and drug diversion program. The sad part of this is that the funds for some of the programs she was able to use have long since dried up and some of the diversion programs will undoubtedly be cut due to the California budget crisis.

She is an extraordinary woman as those among the dead aboard the space shuttle were extraordinary persons.

No, I’ll never forget that day. Now, if you’d asked me about January 29th, I might be hard-pressed.

BTW: none of this was easy.

I heard the news when I returned home from a doctor’s appointment and turned on the television. Dan Rather was on camera, and I thought it odd that he was live in the middle of the day. Then he said something about an accident happening to the shuttle and my heart froze up. As others have mentioned I watched the endless repeats on film, and I kept wanting to believe if they played it just one more time that they would get past the explosion and be safe, kind of like a record with a scratch that it would skip.

I was 4 years old, but I remember that day pretty vividly. I live across the state from the space center, so we went outside to watch for the shuttle. Due to the distance, we wouldn’t be able to see it till it was quite a ways up in the air. I remember seeing what looked like a streak of cloud going up, up, up, then splitting in two and going back down. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I got the feeling that something was very wrong. We rushed inside and turned on the news, which confirmed our fears. I also remember the news anchors were visibly upset, something I had never seen before. Funny how memories like that stick with you while other better ones fade.

I was at school, 6th grade. We were watching it on TV when it exploded. At first no one understood what had happened, we thought it was just what was supposed to have happened. Then a few minutes later the teacher suddenly switched off the set. I don’t really remember what was said after that. I still remember to this day what it looked like.

I was in fourth grade. My principal called all the teachers out of the classroom and when they came back they were visibly upset, but they never told us anything.

I found out when I got home and it was being shown over and over on TV. I started to cry. See, back then even more than now I was a space fan. Not like Star Trek space, but NASA space, the real explorers. I had a boatload of books, I knew the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo programs and every astronaut and launch date by heart, and I never missed the chance to see a launch on TV.

When I found out what happened I went and got a scale model of the Space Shuttle and put the Challenger decals on it and wished for a long time that it had never happened. When you’re that young sometimes you think that if you wish hard enough it will go away as if nothing had happened. Alas, it had. When the Discovery took off in 1988 on the first launch after the accident, we stopped everything we were doing to watch. When it took off we all cheered, and then we remembered. I had all of the names comitted to memory, and I had never forgotten.

And then the Columbia happened. Another seven astronauts died. And I mourned once again. But you know what? We’ll send up another seven, and another seven. And then seven more. Because space is somewhere we should be exploring, for our future. We shouldn’t sacrifice that at the expense of the past. I would like to think that those that died did so for a reason. Quitting because of their death would be a great disservice to their memories and to our future.

So here’s to all of the astronauts that died, either in space or on the ground preparing to do their part to make our world a better place. And that includes the forgotten astronauts of Apollo 1, died January 27, 1967:

Edward White II
Roger Chaffee
Virgil “Gus” Grissom

After the Challenger disaster I saw an editorial cartoon. It showed a ladder stretching up through darkness of space, with stars shining, reaching into infinity. Each rung of the ladder had the name of an astronaut, the Apollo One guys, Russian names I don’t recall, the the names of the Challenger crew. Poignant, to say the least.

Challenger is the first major event that I can remember. I can’t offer up the same amount of detail as a lot of the other posters in this thread, but I was in grade 2 and obsessed with all things related to space, so I was really upset when I heard about it. The image is so deeply ingrained that whenever I see a shuttle launch on tv I still half hold my breath until it passes the point where Challenger exploded.

That is one of the single, most indelible images in my mind from that day. The emotion is just as intense today as it was then.

Thank you for posting these, Airman Doors, USAF.

I was a newlywed, married the first day of the year. I was still teaching then, but for some reason, I was home from school. A friend called and told my husband to turn on the television and there it was.

All I could think of was “the teacher.” There had been so much talk about it among educators for months and one of my friends had applied.

I remember Christie’s mother’s face. You could tell that she was waiting for reassurance or an explanation. We all were.

Then watching the truth decend on her classroom…

And then, as sort of a third wave, what I had seen hit me.

I was in kindergarten, and like someone else mentioned, that is the first major event that I remember. I don’t remember a lot about it, in particular, just that I remember it happening.

I was in Cairo. Having a bloody wonderful time, feeling totaly disconnected from “real life” (ok i was 18). I heard the news and thought… SHIT how bad is that…then real life interupted,

It was a sad thing but I am over it.