A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Space...the final frontier...

Twenty years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke up shortly after takeoff, killing all 7 crew members.

For my generation, this was a defining moment, like the Kennedy assassination was to the baby boomers, and what 9/11 is to any American alive at the time. Many of us remember when we first heard, and for days the news was full of that awful moment. Shown over, and over. And over. And then came the jokes, not so much from a sense of meanness, but because humor is a way of helping people cope. (If you're really interested, I found an article on humor as disaster response here.)

I certainly remember where I was. I was in 10th grade, and I was sitting in study hall, and I was crocheting a lacy shawl because I didn't have any actual studying to do. (The yarn was a lilac, as I recall...) I was sitting in the front row, second column from the right, and the room was the same one as I had for history. The principal came over the loudspeaker and told us what had happened, and asked us to observe a moment of silence. There were no TVs in our classrooms back then, so it wasn't until we all got home that the visual bombardment began to happen. And it wasn't until years later, when I was reading something by physicist Richard Feynmann, that I understood how it had gone tragically wrong.

But my memories pale in comparison to many down here, less than 40 miles from where it happened. At every job I've had down here, major launches draw a crowd to windows or parking lots to watch the rocket or shuttle (like we did recently for the Pluto mission). I have coworkers that were watching when Challenger went, and I doubt I'd have to look too hard to find someone who was actually at the Cape at the time. I can't even imagine what a searing memory that would be.

Where were you when you heard?

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