Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Twenty years ago...

Challenger Crew--courtesy of NASA(NASA Photo)

I was a college sophomore, dating someone who wanted to work for NASA. He had blueprints to the space shuttle, could tell you all about it. That was before we were afraid to put any schematic into the public view because of terrorism.

I remember that morning, when our friend asked us if we'd heard, and we thought it was some sick joke. No, really, come and see...

And then watching on the news, over, and over again as they showed the explosion.

I remember watching a dream die, as he for lack of anything else explained that one part was the crew cabin, that they were still alive, at least for a little while...something no one mentioned for months. We watched that same footage for hours on end, as if doing so could bring catharsis or maybe erase the awful truth.

I remember how routine the flights had seemed, now, after those days when I'd watched the prototype on back of a Boeing out in the desert. I never got a chance to see it land there. I always wanted to. I'd watched eagerly the first missions, but with this one I was busy in class, too busy to take a moment to watch. In the end, it was this mission in which many of us lost a certain innocence about space.

And with the explosion, the sense of routine shattered, a tragedy made worse by a civilian, a teacher, on board, and the many school children who watched it live.

I remember Dan Rather at loss for words, his eyes tearing instead.

At the time, it was the worst thing I'd ever witnessed. Before 9-11 and the fall of the twin towers, this was my generation's moment frozen in history, where everyone knew where he or she was, like the Kennedy assassination was for my mother's generation.

On that day in 1986, it was more conceivable that we'd be nuked by Russians than attacked on our home soil by terrorists.

And now, after Oklahoma City, after 9-11, after Columbia, it seems that Challenger was merely a misstep in man's search for meaning in the universe. I cannot believe it to be in vain. Someday, we will 'touch the stars' rather than merely dream about them. And when we do, we will remember Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judy Resnick, as dreamers who lived a dream, and died pursuing that dream. They were a cross-section of ethnicities and religions, representing America at its best.

Please join with me for a moment of silence at 11:40 EST, the anniversary of the explosion. For those they left behind, for those of us touched by that awful day, for the belief that we will go into space, remember their sacrifice.

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