Where were you and what were you doing on the morning of January 28, 1986?
Were you in a classroom when you learned the
space shuttle Challenger had exploded?
Were you at work, caring for kids, home sick?
Did you feel some personal connection to the disaster?
Share your memories by submitting them to memory*at*margaretlazarusdean.com.
Message: January in Philadelphia. We had a bottle of Old Granddad which we would use to enhance the effect of the kerosene heater and offer to the bike messengers and beggars, the only people who would walk into a bike shop in the winter months. In those days few messengers worked on fixed gears and thought they were members of an ďImmortal ClassĒ but we did all play in at least one band.
So it was Xander, leader of my band, who burst in and said "the shuttle blew up." I was as surprised as I was when I heard that the World Trade Center was on fire--not at all. At the age of twelve or so I had first seen a diagram of the shuttle and I had a gut feeling the space age was over. "It was the main engines," I said. I was wrong, but at least when I read Mike Collins biography I learned he had thought the same thing. Years later I worked on a custom bike for a guy employed by Thiokol, a man who's job it was to recreate the disaster using a solid booster strapped to the ground in a western desert, a thousand tons of thrust tied down like Gulliver in Lilliput. His job was to relive that disaster day after day, when really the person who should have been doing this penance was Ronald Regan. He sent those people to their deaths so he could ride on their achievement in the state of the union address. The future actually belongs to cruel and immoral people who are willing to do such things as he--unless we take it from them. That is the message of the Challenger disaster.
Name: Andy Dyson
Date Posted: 15:01, 10 04 2010
Message: I was a sophomore in High School living in Southern California and my family was mad about the space program.I knew of every mission. We had been to see launches and I was excited about Christa's journey. I was broken when the principal announced over the loudspeaker that we had lost Challenger. I cried on and off for days when they media replayed the footage. We, the adoring shuttle fans, had been so naive to think that the shuttle was invulnerable.
Years later, in 1998, living in Florida and working at a free-flight bird show at Disney's Animal Kingdom, I stood on the roof of our stage and watched John Glenn's mission take off. I watched with a hand pressed to my chest and my heart in my throat. And he made it, but now a successful shuttle launch is a relief and not a given --as have been many aspects of life ever since. The Challenger tragedy forced many many children to stop believing in their immortality and the immutability of their dreams and sadly become adults.
Date Posted: 18:15, 06 07 2009
Message: I was born in 1993, so this probably doesn't count, but it's something I will never forget:
Back in elementary school, my science teacher was a blond woman named Ms. Lane who has since retired. She was a wonderful person with a great sense of humor. (She had a watering can labeled "H2O" in her room.)
Anyway, one day we were doing a lesson that had to do with space, and Ms. Lane was talking about how the shuttle is prepared in the VAB in great detail. We all were amazed by her knowledge, and one kid blurted out "Gosh, Ms. Lane, you sure know a lot about the space shuttle!"
"Well, many years ago, before any of you were born, the government sent us letters about two contests. One was to visit Cape Canaveral and see the space shuttle as it was prepared for flight. The other was actually to go into space. I entered both contests. I won the first and I lost the second."
She paused. Some of us (Myself included) knew vaguely about what had happened.
"And I have never been so happy to loose anything in all my life. Because the lady who won..."
I do not know how far Ms. Lane's contest entry made it. I don't know if she was disqualified right away or if she made it farther.
All I know is that it might have been her.
Date Posted: 11:51, 10 04 2009
Message: I was standing outside of my school at Saturn Elementary. I was in Kindergarten and the school was located in Cocoa Florida. I saw the Challenger explode. I did not understand yet what had happened. I was only six years old.
Name: Nicole Gambrell
Date Posted: 09:43, 08 04 2009
Message: good ooooooooooooo
Date Posted: 21:34, 05 04 2009
Message: I was in college, but spending January in NYC on an internship at the Anthology Film Archives. I was subletting a place that did not have a TV so I learned about it from seeing pics on the cover of papers and reading about it. Oddly, it was a year or two before I saw footage. I mostly remember the teacher-astronaut and thinking about all of those schoolkids watching. All of her students in particular.
Date Posted: 23:52, 19 02 2009
Message: I was at work but ran down to the cafeteria to watch the liftoff on our tv set. Came back to my desk a little while later in shock and crying. One of my co-workers could absolutely not understand why I was crying, even after I told her what had happened. I tried to make her understand that they were brave and courageous and that they had risked their lives for all of us, to make life better for all of us. She just shook her head and stared at me in disbelief. I remember walking to the train station that day in a daze and just so very sad for the astronauts, their families, and for all of the school children who I knew had been watching that day. Five days later, I had to go into the Astronomy class that I taught on Saturday mornings to children and console about 30 kids between the ages of 6 and 13. I tried to explain to them that out of something bad, something good always happens, in some form, in some way and at some later time. I told them that we will learn from this experience and that the astronauts' sacrifices would not be in vain. I ended up having them write letters of condolence to President Reagan. A few weeks later, we received a letter from The White House that had been prepared and sent out to many of the school children who had been watching as the Challenger exploded. I made copies for everyone and I think it really helped the kids deal with their grief.
Name: Abbe Effron
Date Posted: 00:37, 07 02 2009
Message: When the Challenger crashed on January 28, 1986, I was in my second semester of my sophomore year of college. My mother was having a breakdown, my sister was in trouble, my family was falling apart, I didn't yet know that my boyfriend had slept with my good friend, my roommate was in an ugly battle with Bulimia, and I do NOT remember the Challenger crash. Not at all. Not one bit. I remind myself of this all the time when my students are oblivious to--or apathetic about--things that feel/seem very important to me.
Name: Peggy Adler
Date Posted: 18:25, 29 01 2009
Message: I was in sixth grade and I was working in the school library helping to put barcodes in books so the librarians could just scan the books instead of stamp them. I was working in the library because I "exempt" from PE because of my arm.
It's weird, unlike some other people on this forum, I was the only kid in the room and surrounded by the adult librarians. We were watching it on a small TV set by the checkout desk. I don't remember them explaining anything to me. Maybe they thought I would discuss in the next class.
I was also in California, so I don't remember if I was seeing it live, or if I saw a replay.
By the next period, when I returned to the company of kids, they must have already exchanged thoughts and feelings, because I remember feeling kind of left out of the initial reaction and discussion.
Date Posted: 20:11, 28 01 2009
Message: Cafeteria viewing. Lotsa crying. It was one of my first memories of feeling like adults were attempting to indoctrinate us in group, to join their way of cathartic self expression, national remorse/national pride... and I remember feeling immune to what the tv and teachers were selling and to the children who were buying it. Hi Deana! love, CASEY
Name: Casey Simpson
Date Posted: 03:42, 29 08 2008
Message: Because of this site, someone dear to me in college found me and wrote --twenty years after our last meeting. Thank the lucky stars and heavens for Ms. Lazarus Dean and her wonderful book! (And the Shawnee Library) Margaret, you must be my fairy godmother. I will be forever in your debt. Deana K.
Name: Deana Kalmar
Date Posted: 20:44, 02 08 2008
Message: I was in the 3rd grade and we went outside to see if we could catch a glimpse of the launch. I live south of ape Canaveral. To this day I still remember all thathappened that day. That day is forever frozen in my minds eye. When I read about it on the net or hear about it when the anniversy of the disaster comes around I still feel the way I felt that day. God Bless the crew and there families.
Date Posted: 14:14, 11 06 2008
Message: Hi Margaret! Hope all is well...
I was in the 5th grade, and we (my class) was watching the launch on TV, like so many others. I don't remember how long we sat there in silence watching, but it seemed like a long, long time. This was the first on my list of awful events (which I think probably everyone has) for which I remember exactly where I was - I was just getting to work in the lab the morning of 9/11 (second week on that job!); I was at a clinic waiting to get a tetanus booster when Paul Wellstone's plane went down. The Columbia disaster doesn't stick in my head quite as well as the Challenger disaster (although I do remember sitting in the dim light in the living room watching the Columbia coverage on CNN).
These events are sad, but I suppose it's better to feel that sadness than not - wouldn't it be dreadful to watch the news, with its progression of typhoons and earthquakes and tornadoes and crashes and other disasters, and not feel anything about it?
Name: ginny z.
Date Posted: 16:42, 28 05 2008
Message: I was a senior in HS living in the western suburbs of Chicago. I had had a doctor's appointment that day and my mom let me come home afterwards for the rest of the day (no school that afternoon!). So I saw it on the TV at home with my mom. I think the fact that there was a civilian (and a schoolteacher, at that!) going up for the first time had made this launch of particular interest.
I remember being riveted to the TV. It seemed so surreal (much like 9/11 15 years later). One minute everything was fine and then the next those people were dead. Talk about a wake up call.
God continue to walk with the families and friends of all the victims of that tragic day.
Name: Paul Offhaus
Date Posted: 06:22, 11 05 2008
Message: I can remember exactly where I was; a news crew came to my high school, Beverly Hills High, probably channel 4 Knbc, and I was coming out of the cafeteria with my frozen yogurt cone (I had been so relieved to find they'd added one of those machines to our nutrition 'sbord.) Because they were the news and I was shy, I just kept on walking and only in passing heard a reporter say, "So, how do YOU feel about the disaster?" to a fellow student. I paused for a second before realizing that in Beverly Hills, the kids would have only vapid comments regarding the tragedy, and so I felt sorry for the news crew. (I was 17 and prone to melancholy, so nothing ever really penetrated my sad husk.) Later on I realized this was a tremendous blow to the u.s.' collective self-esteem. This was also the first public tragedy of my adulthood.
Name: Deana Kalmar
Date Posted: 14:18, 24 04 2008
Message: I remember clearly. It was our honeymoon. We are from Colorado, and went to Florida to DisneyWorld. The day we arrived it was cold and we heard the launch was that day, so we drove to the coast just south of the launch to watch. I'd never seen a launch, but it just didn't look right. Then someone with a radio said it exploded, and I looked up and it looked like it was on top of us and falling on us, but of course it wasn't it was over the atlantic.
Name: Wendy Cernik
Date Posted: 10:02, 03 03 2008
I was at college (Cornell College in Iowa) and some of my friends were from Illinois so either knew Christa McAuliffe or "knew someone" who knew her - so there were many kids upset.
Name: Kristi Herbrand
Date Posted: 00:39, 26 02 2008
Message: I was in school in the fourth grade when I heard about the Challenger explosion. I did feel some personal connection as I was from Maine and there was a lot of press about Crista since she was a "local." Also, at the time, I had wanted to be an astronaut and followed the space program very closely.
Name: L Merrill
Date Posted: 08:36, 24 02 2008
Message: As I watched Atlantis land this morning( I always hold my breath until it is on the ground) and as of this moment the lunar eclipse I am compelled to write of the vivid memory of the Challenger explosion. I was 24 years old and was at home sleeping when the radio went off and the announcer said "something exploded". I immediately felt such a sense of doom and grief. I thought of the shuttle right away. I rushed downstairs and turned the tv on and saw the heartbreaking images of Christa's parents particularly her father who had such a joyous look on his face- he had not realized what had just happened. But her mother did. They replayed the explosion over and over and each time (just like with the planes on 9/11) I hoped that it could be reversed. It was not until years later that I learned that 2 of the crew had survived the explosion only to fall to their deaths in an excruciating and terrifying two minutes. I also learned that a design feature that would have prevented both the Challenger and Columbia tragedies was vetoed because the shuttles had already been built and it was too expensive to scrap them or remake them. I was so angry. What do we care about here?
Name: Robin Ruth-Coleman
Date Posted: 13:01, 23 02 2008
Message: When the Challenger exploded, I was sitting in a restaurant in Reston, Virginia. I was lunching with the CEO of an organization my company had recently determined my organization would merge with. At that point, discussions about who had critical positions, who might relocate, and where jobs were duplicated fell off our agenda. We were stunned and our current concerns faded into oblivion for at least a couple of weeks, there was little of importance that needed to happen with urgency and we started to refocus our efforts on how to make transitions as comfortable as possible.
To this day, on every "Challenger Anniversary" I recall that lunch and how our whole attitudes about merger/outcome shifted to concern and persons.
Name: Rita D Pierini
Date Posted: 12:58, 23 02 2008
Message: I have often felt like the Challenger accident was (though not as big a tragedy as 9/11) a key event that shaped the childhoods of those growing up at that time. My friends and I, current and past, have all talked about where we were when that happened. I was in fourth grade in Boston, the daughter of an elementary school teacher, and I was completely captivated by the idea of a teacher going into space. I was already fascinated by the space program, and wanted to be an astronaut. I was lucky enough not to see the launch live in school, because our teacher couldn't get the television to work. I do remember the principal announcing what had happened and all of us being in shock. My shock turned to grief when I arrived home and turned on the television, because of course the media insisted on playing the tape of the accident repeatedly. They don't think about the effect this has on kids who are too young to process the information! It didn't damper my desire to be an astronaut, though I ultimately became a librarian. I think I went to see the Dream is Alive at the Omni Imax Theatre in Boston 3 times! I would see it again today on the big screen if I could.
Thanks for reminding me about this, and I'm looking forward to reading your novel!
Name: Olivia Durant
Date Posted: 12:57, 23 02 2008
Message: Your book sounds so interesting. Iím a middle school librarian and think the students in our school would very much enjoy your book. If I donít win one, I will certainly put it on my next book order.
As to where I was when the Challenger exploded: that day I was home, which was unusual, and had the TV on. My son was in school and my husband was away from home, due back that evening. I was doing chores around the house and keeping an eye on the TV for the liftoff. Because I was in journalism and education the fact that Christa McAuliffe was on board was very special to me. I couldnít believe what I was seeing. It was unimaginable. I thought back over the numerous trips into space, including watching the footage from the moon landing and hearing those famous words. My heart ached for the families, and for all the school children who had been so involved in activities connected with this particular space trip.
Canít wait to read your book!
Name: Dee Laswell
Date Posted: 12:56, 23 02 2008
Message: I was out of school that day, sick I think??
I was watching TV, although I cannot remember what was on, when the broadcast was interrupted. I could not believe what I was hearing. Although I knew that this was risky business, it seemed like NASA had these missions down to an art. This experience left me even sicker. For several days I kept thinking of the families and how they must have been hurting.
Name: Doug Chaffin
Date Posted: 12:56, 23 02 2008
Message: I was in 9th grade in phys ed class. Someone in the boys gym class that was shooting hoops on the other side of the gym had been watching the launch on the tv built into his wrist watch (some things seem so 80's now) and saw the explosion and passed the word around.
Name: Jenn Doyle
Date Posted: 12:55, 23 02 2008
Message: I was a nursing student deep in thought about the patient's condition and looked up at his tv and saw
the explosion and couldn't believe what I was seeing. Thinking it must be something else, I just stood
there mesmerized. I was glad to have the patient there, to have someone else witness it.
Name: Mari Ruuska
Date Posted: 12:54, 23 02 2008
Message: I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that moment.
I was 25, married with two small children. We lived in Lakeland, FL and I worked for an automotive parts company as a delivery driver. I was on my way to a delivery at a Chevrolet Dealership and I had the radio on and they were doing the countdown to liftoff. I stopped in the K-mart parking lot nextdoor to the Dealer to watch the shuttle go up. As I was sitting in the truck with the radio on I was watching it in the sky when it exploded. I remember thinking that did not look right when they said it had exploded. I went on to make my deliveries and that is all everyone talked about that day. As soon as I got home I remember watching it on tv. It was a very emotional day.
I do not live in Florida anymore, so I do not always hear much about the shuttles, but when I do I think back to that day.
Name: Sandy Jones
Date Posted: 12:53, 23 02 2008
Message: At that time I was working in a public school district office as a bookkeeping and buying assistant. Because a teacher was one of the astronauts the talk around our office had been interested and excited about the launch. That particular day I was home sick with bronchitus and laid out on the couch watching tv. Fading in and out of naps due to the medicine I was taking, the Challenger disaster seemed almost like a dream at first. It was such a devastating event and I can still remember it like it happened yesterday.
I would love to read your book.
Name: Joyce Kernan
Date Posted: 12:51, 23 02 2008
Message: It seems to me that the Challenger disaster for you was what the Kennedy assassination was for me, and the 9-11 attacks are for a new generation.
In 1986 I was at work at Wisconsin Energy, where I was in government relations. A good friend had gone on to another company and he called me that morning to tell me the news. I could not believe it! There was a television in the employee lounge just outside the cafeteria and I went there immediately. Only a few were there when I got there, but the large room was soon crowded. I could not tear my self away from the news coverage for an hour or more. And as I write this, I remember the stunned, sick, feeling I had that day.
Whether I win one of the 10 signed copies or not, Iíll be sure to read The Time It Takes to Fall. Congratulations on its publication.
Name: F Tessa Bartels
Date Posted: 12:50, 23 02 2008
Message: I was sitting in my English lit class in High School. I heard the principal come on the loudspeaker and announce the tragedy. He was so overcome with emotion. His voice cracking as he announced it. Kids in school walking around in a fog of disbelief. The TV showing it over and over as I got home from school. My heart breaking for all those families who lost their loved ones. I will NEVER forget it!
Thank you for creating the opportunity to look back and remember.
Name: Heidi Endicott
Date Posted: 11:38, 23 02 2008
Message: I wrote about them here:
Name: R.J. O'Hara
Date Posted: 19:37, 22 02 2008
Message: I was a freshman in college. Just returned to school after Xmas break and was feeling very homesick. I just got back to my dorm from a class when the news broke -- I'll never forget how horrified I felt. I cried all that day.
Name: Melissa Notto
Date Posted: 11:24, 22 02 2008
Message: I am not to sure my entry is to exciting, but I do remember where I was the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded.
I was packing my suitcase to leave the hospital with my new baby son Thomas. He was born on Jan 24th. He was born with some issues that all most had us both not make it. He has been my "runt puppy" from the start. Baby asthma, kidney failed, etc. He is now 22 years old and I am very grateful for his life. It was weird and sad to see the Challenger explode and those lives come to an end while I was bringing a new one into the world to keep safe and happy. Tom had an argument in high school with a teacher who had the year wrong in the classroom about the Challenger. He called the teacher on it and told him he was coming home from the hospital the correct year. Tom never backs down, the teacher had to go look up the information.
The same week my daughter was turning 6 years old and in Kindergarten. Her birthday was good, we had the party in the hospital. The high school where my husband family was from burned to the ground on her birthday. Her grandparents were volunteer firemen
It was a very sad week but my son is my joy to this day.
Name: Teresa Carter
Date Posted: 00:12, 22 02 2008
Message: I was working in Bangladesh and getting into a Jeep to do Field Work. One of the Engineers told me what happened. It was in my thoughts all day long. Although I forgotten the face of most that I worked with, I can still clearly see the face of the person who informed me. Thanks
Name: sharon k wilk
Date Posted: 18:16, 21 02 2008
Message: Hi, Margaret! I was at work the day of the tragedy. We lived in Muncie, Indiana, at the time and I worked for Ball Corporation. I was 30 years old and pregnant with our first child. I remember going to the board room to watch the launch. It took time to realize what had happened. After it sunk in, I had a horrible, sick feeling. We could not believe what we had just witnessed. It is still difficult to watch the footage replayed.
Your book sounds like it shows another side of the story that didn't end once the cameras were turned off. I'm anxious to read it soon.
Name: Debbie Durst
Date Posted: 14:45, 21 02 2008
Message: Margaret, I remember where and what I was doing when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. I had been working the night shift at the IRS and went home to take a bath. I was in the tub when my dad came to the door and said, "the shuttle blew up". I thought he was talking about a bus outside. When I got finished with my bath I learned what really happened.
Name: Bob Seifert
Date Posted: 14:43, 21 02 2008
Message: The day the Challenger exploded was, for me, nearly as monumental as the day JFK was shot and the events of 9/11. I was in the kitchen packing lunches for my son and myself for school and work. Mark, my 9-year-old son, was sitting on the living room floor watching the lift-off on TV. I could hear the roar of the engines but didn't pay that close attention to it at the time...not until my son said, 'Mom, it blew up.'. Stunned, I said 'What?' and he repeated what he said. I dashed to the living room to watch. I saw the remains of the ship falling to earth, followed by the replay of the actual explosion. I couldn't believe that we had just witnessed the deaths of seven brave people.
Name: Karen Haas
Date Posted: 14:39, 21 02 2008
Message: The Challenger disaster was horrowfing I was glued to the television for days
I cried and prayed for the families.
I talked about it for days
I was sad and thought about how the Challengers crew felt or if they had time to feel
I feel the same today
Date Posted: 14:21, 21 02 2008
Message: I was not yet born actually (I was born in April of that year), but it sounds like a great book and I would love to be entered to win a copy.
Thank you for this chance,
Name: Amanda Ryan
Date Posted: 13:48, 21 02 2008
Message: I was 17 years old, working in a pizza place in Las Vegas, NV. It was a family-owned restaurant and we had the TV on most of the time for us and our customers. Everyone in the place stopped and hovered around the set for the countdown and watched the liftoff. There were only about 5 of us in the place, but all of our jaws dropped at the same moment and several of us had tears freely streaming down our faces. In fact, the tears still well up when I think about it.
Name: Stacey Dale
Date Posted: 10:42, 21 02 2008
Message: I was watching the launch on TV as I had a day off from my job as a nurse and I remember the utter disbelief that this was happening and waiting for a reassurance that all was OK. Liz Butler.
Name: Liz Butler
Date Posted: 09:03, 21 02 2008
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