I remember January 28, 1986 like it was yesterday. I was 11 years old and in Mrs. Smith's science class. Anticipation had built for weeks as Mrs. Smith talked about outer space, planets, space exploration and how science experiments could be done in those situations.
Shortly before lunch Mrs. Smith turned on the televisions that had been placed in the classroom for the special event. She was excited. Her excitement bubbled over into her students. And we watched with awe as the Space Shuttle Challenger launched into a wide blue sky. And then our little faces watched in horror as dreams exploded in front of our eyes.
We quickly learned terms like "O-ring" and "rocket boosters." We learned how their failure led to the loss of seven lives. And even as middle school kids we realized that the nation had suffered a great loss. It was the first national disaster that I remember. And when the scene replayed in 2003 with the explosion of the Discovery, we all wept again.
It was later in the afternoon that we took comfort in our parent's explanations of tragedies. And we turned to President Reagan for an explanation. He reassured us saying, "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."
25 years later and it it still feels like yesterday.