All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where Were You?

I can't believe it's been 25 years since the Challenger accident. I remember as a kid hearing my parents talk about where they were when JFK was shot. I was struck by how they all remember exactly how they heard the news. And then, when I was a senior in high school, I experienced that horrible type of imprinting event. A little change of style today, and a question posed to you each. Where were you?

I was going from one class to another and stopped in to the guidance office. The radio was on, and I thought, "Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Did the shuttle just explode?" There were murmurs and then a reminder to get to class. I had gym, where we assembled in our rows on the floor and the principal came on with the news I had known for the last 10 minutes, but thought I'd misheard... wanted to think I'd misheard since it didn't seem to be spreading. Over the coming days, we learned a family friend lost her nephew, Ronald McNair. For those of us too young or not born when other brave souls were lost in the space race, it was a total shock. The shuttle just "worked." It was, dare I say, routine.

I've copied the text of one of the most beautifully written speeches below, President Reagan's address to the nation the night of the accident. I remember seeing it, but the words are powerful to read, and worth a look. Then, after, please add your answer to the original question, "Where were you?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss. Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle. But they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

"For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us. We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

"And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.

"I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: 'Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.'
"There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. 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.'"


  1. Thank you for the reminder and posting the speech. Love Reagan for so many reasons.

    I was 8 and in third grade. Mrs. Stork's class (my favorite teacher). I remember all of the classes being shuffled to the cafeteria and they rolled in a TV so we could watch what was happening. I don't know that I fully comprehended the gravity of the situation but I remember feeling sad.

  2. "waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God"

    I'd forgotten this speech. A ex-girlfriend had been an intern at NASA working on the spacesuits, so had met the crew a few times. They were all watching on closed circuit at NASA. I can't imagine. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I can't remember why we didn't have school that day, but i was watching the take-off on the tiny black and white TV we had in our kitchen and talking to my bf on the phone. We kept asking each other "is is supposed to look like that?"

    Surprised I can still remember so many details, all these years later...

  4. Visiting back from Mom Loop.
    I was in school, in line for the cafeteria, and someone had wheeled a tv cart into the hallway. Everyone was just standing there watching it on the news. It was so epic to me that I saved the newspaper that day with the explosion picture on the front page. I still have it.