Twenty-five years ago at the moment I’m writing I was standing with my family on a frigid Florida along a lake at Kennedy Space Center watching the Space Shuttle Challenger lift off. Minutes later we were driving back out the access road towards Orlando trying to figure out what had happened. Within hours we were wandering numbly through the Disney Village trying to get our minds back on a “happiest-place-on-earth” track and avoid the ubiquitous footage of what we’d seen that cold morning.
Of all the historical moments that have occurred in my lifetime, that’s mine. That’s the one I was present for. What a moment. Tragedy born of stupidity. Although I suppose that all “great” historical moments are born in tragedy. It’s only later we recognize them as turning points for great good. This one, of course, wasn’t a turning point for anything. Nobody learned anything, nothing changed (see February 1, 2003).
Last night as I was thinking on today I felt, as I always do, a deep sadness for the lives that were lost. I still remember all their names: Scobee, Smith, Resnik, McNair, Jarvis, Onizuka, McAuliffe. Isn’t that a pretty impressive cross-section of the United States? I remember what they looked like. I mourn them lost and wish I hadn’t seen it happen.
But that’s the old curse, “may you live in interesting times.” It’s been interesting. So, despite the unpleasant memories, I’ll be glad I was present at a moment in history and proud that there will always be at least one person who remembers the day and those who were lost.