I was in 9th grade. Mr. Cooper's social studies class. We were watching a movie and the English teacher from down the hall came running into the room. She whispered something in Mr. Cooper's ear and his normally open and jovial face clouded over. He turned off the video and turned on the TV.
Every channel was playing the same thing. Over and over and over. We all just sat there and stared. I remember not comprehending. Not wanting to comprehend. It was hard to imagine that anything could silence a room full of 8th graders but it did. Some of us were crying but most of us were just sitting in stunned silence. It was like watching a dream die.
From the time I was about 10, all I had wanted to do was be an astronaut. I was obsessed with flying, with jets (as the avenue I would take to become an astronaut) and all things space-related. And then NASA announced that they would send a teacher into space.
A common person. Not an astronaut. Not a pilot. A teacher.
Several teachers from our district applied. One - who later became a teacher of mine in high school - even made it to the later rounds of selection. So this tragedy hit close to home on so many levels. And it devastated me.
And now, 21 and a half years later, it looks as though we have come full circle. I am conflicted. I am thrilled and sad at the same time. I have learned that it IS possible to experience both emotions at the same time and have done so on many occasions in the past, just as I am now. Part of me still grieves for the lives lost on that horrible day. I still have Christa McAuliffe's biography on my bookshelf and I cannot imagine how much her family still misses her. How much all of their families miss all of them.
And yet, the hope I feel, the glimmer of hope and promise is tough to resist. I pray this flight goes well. I pray that the sacrifices of the Challenger 7 are honored. I pray that they all come home safely. To do so would be like regaining a dream that died so many years ago.