There’s a meme making its way around the Internets: “Where were you when Challenger blew up?”
In 1986 I was a student in Mt. Hood Community College’s Electronic Tech program. It was early in the morning and I had sat down with several fellow students to enjoy some coffee in the cafeteria. An old television hanging from the ceiling in one corner was displaying this strange image of two diverging columns of smoke. I didn’t understand what I was seeing until word got to our table that Challenger had exploded shortly after takeoff.
“Wasn’t that the ship with the teacher?” asked someone behind me. I was stunned and becoming increasingly numb as the reality of it all began to set in. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Our ships weren’t supposed to blow up — that sort of thing only happened to the Russians. We had backup systems. We had backup systems on our backup systems!
For the rest of the day everything slowed down. I couldn’t think straight. People would walk along to class or out to the parking lot with glazed looks on their faces. I spied the occasional tear.
I will never forget that day. Ditto 9/11.