20th Anniversary of Challenger Disaster

I may not be the oldest of the ScienceBlogs cohort (that’s an understatement, by the way), but I do remember the Challenger disaster. I don’t remember watching it on TV. I don’t remember seeing the explosion on the news. I don’t think I even knew what news was or how I could watch it. I was in kindergarten. Among the few things I remember from that first year of school were wetting my pants and hearing that a spaceship exploded and a teacher was on board. I didn’t realize that there were other teachers besides mine. I knew my teacher was not dead, and this confused me. This is among the ten earliest memories of my life.

Seed will be running a collection of responses to the question, “Where were you when the Challenger exploded?” on their website.


  1. #1 afarensis
    January 27, 2006

    Dude, you are making some of us feel realy old…stop it!

  2. #2 Amit
    January 27, 2006

    I was in the second grade and I remember my teacher started crying when someone walked in our classroom and told her.

  3. #3 mnuez
    January 28, 2006

    I was in fourth grade and in the type of school most Americans would never guess existed in this country. In our school television was viewed as child-porn might have been viewed in other schools. Nonetheless, our teacher brought in a television that day for us all to watch the challenger blow up over Florida. Before she turned it on though, the principal of the school walked in and told us that despite his not having seen a television in 20 years, this was so tremendously important that he was going to join us to watch it.

    We watched it.

    Who cared?

    So some people blew up on a rocket ship accident. For the life of me I couldn’t comprehend why everyone was crying over this as though their parents had just died and why our teacher was still alive despite having brought a televiusion into school. In fact, I still have no shared feelings with folk twenty and thirty years my senior who seem to feel that astronauts are somehow exceptional heroes of some world-class order.

    Strangely though, the way that I’ve come about toward empathy with these characters is through understanding that to them, the first humans into space are seen as their grandparents thought of the Wright brothers and the other pioneers of aviation. in each of those instances some grand, seemingly unbreachable, barrier had been broken through and along with it came fantasies of “now, anything is possible”. Perhaps as we might feel when the first “personality transfer” takes place between a dying ancient and his newly cloned disease-free body.

    Anyhow, thus my recollections.


    P.S. The teacher aspect to the whole thing seemed to me even more astounding as I viewed teachers as somehow LESS than the average human being and couldn’t understand why her death was somehow so much more tragic than the deaths of the noble scientists. I eventually came to the conclusion, that somehow, teachers were semi-adult/semi-child creatures (as for example anyone whose ever used the phrase “women and children” apparently views all women to be) ahich somehow moved her death to somewhere between the tragedy of an adult’s death and that of a fourth grade girl, whom presumable she teached. (Taught wouldn’t work. Teached is more precise for my grammatical purposes here.)

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