It's been 25 years since Challenger fell from the sky, pieces shooting in every direction. As a little girl standing in my back yard watching, I didn't understand what was happening. Things looked different than all the other launches, and I was used to watching shuttle and rocket launches from my yard every couple months all my life. The Space Program was a way of life in my home town, so much so you don't quite realize all the schools and streets are named after planets, astronauts, and various NASA-related programs, equipment and missions; even the area code is intentionally 321 in honor of our unique practice of countdowns to launch.
It was because of the Teacher in Space Program's winning educator, Christa McAuliffe, that I became a teacher. My daughter is also named after her. Christa's mother, Grace, and I wrote letters from time to time over the years; her support of my career in education, and that we named our DD after Christa, proved therapeutic. Nearly two decades of being plagued by nightmares from being an eyewitness, but also from the terrible findings from the Rogers Commission, they finally came to an end.
Today, as I do every January 28th, I pray for the families of the Challenger 7. I also pray for the others who like me were there to see it, the FL and TX NASA employees who trained the crew, the students and staff in NH so excited to see their teacher and friend teach lessons from space while looking down at this beautiful planet, and for all who share in the sadness of such a loss.
These were taken from my backyard. One is immediately before the accident, and one is just after. Normally when watching launches from our backyard, the shuttle would make a sudden turn to the right after crossing above our utility wire. Challenger didn't get that chance. She never made it. She barely reached it and suddenly debris was everywhere instead of continuing to climb.
In memory of Ellison Onizuka, S. Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.