January 28, 2011
Jan. 28, 1986 was my JFK assassination moment.
I was a student at Crosby Middle School in Louisville, Ky. A kid who had yet to experience death, disaster or any of those "Oh My God," moments that burn into your memory so vividly that they seem like yesterday.
That day, like much of the nation, my school was eagerly anticipating the telecast of the launch that would make Christa McAuliffe famous as the first teacher to go into space aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.
We gathered in the school's cafetorium (cafetera and auditorium combined) to watch the launch. We huddled in plastic chairs around round tables as close to the TVs as we could get. For me it was the wall-mounted color TV near the water fountain at the corner of the stage. I was so close it was like being in the front row at a movie theater.
We chatted and played games until the countdown began. Then the room became hushed with excitement.
Soon after the shuttle lifted off and rocketed toward outerspace, history was made.
The shuttle exploded. Three plumes of smoke shot away from the fiery hull. And hundreds kids and teachers in the cafetorium at Crosby Middle School fell into stunned silence.
I stood up and stared. Unable to speak, i just shook my head. I couldn't process what was happening.
The rest of the day is a blur.
I know it took months, maybe years for me to really process what had happened.
Our school yearbooks that year included a tribute page to McAuliffe. I still have that yearbook tucked away with other keepsakes. I don't get it out too much, but when I do, I flip through it and always find myself stopping and staring at McAuliffe's smiling face as memories come rushing back.
I relive the moments again just like they were yesterday.