We always watched the shuttle launches. First on the television, right up until after blast off, just in case there was a delay at the last second, which sometimes happened. Once it lifted off we’d run outside and stand in the road or at the end of the driveway and look east above the treeline watching for the glow. We’d follow it up and could usually just barely see the two solid rocket boosters dropping after a couple of minutes. Once the shuttle was way up out of sight, around 5 minutes or so and the smoke trail was taking on a wavy shape from the wind, we’d hear the rumble coming. That was so awesome. We lived about 60 miles or so from Cape Canaveral and it took that long for the rumbling from the massive lift off to reach our area. Sometimes it was louder than others and actually shook the windows. The kids loved it.
On the morning of January 28, 1986 my oldest son was in school and my only other son at the time was three. We were watching the count down that keep getting delayed mostly because of the cold, and finally gave up because I had to get to the grocery store. After my shopping was done, at the old Winn Dixie on Providence Blvd. in Deltona, as we were heading out to the car, I noticed some people at a parked car listening to the radio and others trying to get a view of the sky. Someone said, “The shuttle exploded”.
On the way home, I headed east driving down Doyle Road and I had a perfect view of the sky where ordinarily I would have seen a beautiful big plume of smoke left from the launch. This time the sky was full of zig zag, swirly patterns of smoke that were definitely not a normal sight. My heart sank. So much hype had been given to this mission especially. We’d been kept informed of all the training the first teacher in space had to go through. Krista McAuliffe was the lucky one chosen and all I could think about was all the kids in the New Hampshire classrooms who knew her and were watching that day as the mission ended before it even began.
Years later my family went over to Cape Canaveral to watch a shuttle lift off from as close as civilians are allowed to get. It was truly an awesome sight. And now I live in New Hampshire where the teacher came from. Today the local news will be interviewing people in this area who are related to the story in some way. It’s hard to believe it was 25 years ago.
- Derrick: Lessons Linger 25 Years After Challenger Tragedy (npr.org)
- Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster FAQ: What Went Wrong (space.com)
- Challenger: 25 years later, the wound still aches (msnbc.msn.com)