Challenger 30th: My ‘Where Were You When’ Moment, What’s Yours?

30 years ago on January 28, 1986 the lives of the 7 crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger ended 73 seconds after takeoff.

The vivid memories flooded back when I listened to CBC’S As It Happens interview Kristin Jacques, who was then a student at the school where crew member Christa McAuliffe taught.

I think back to the news memories of my childhood. I recall images of Tiananmen Square, Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union’s collapse and others, though none I can firmly place myself at the moment in the way my parent’s generation in the US can place themselves when they heard of the assassination of President Kennedy.

As with students at schools across the US, I was brought to the central area between the three 1st-grade and three 2nd-grade classrooms to view the takeoff. The publicity surrounding the inclusion of the first teacher to go to space had swept the nation and Christa McAuliffe was an inspiration to women in particular.

We watched in excitement, then disbelieving shock, then horror at the live TV. I give tremendous credit that day to our teachers who managed their own grief to shepherd us through the day.

The images of the day and the faces of the Challenger crews portrait will live with me forever: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.

Challenger Flight Crew

Space Shuttle Challenger Flight Crew (image via NASA, public domain)

Readers, what is your ‘Where Were You When’ moment?

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  • dhammer53

    I was at home working that day. When we were kids, a launch was a big deal. As time went on, most people stopped watching. They became an everyday occurance. Well, this launch was different. An ordinary citizen was headed to space.
    At 73 seconds, when they said Go With Throttle Up, it was a I can’t believe I’m seeing this moment.

  • MarkD

    I was in my early 20’s and skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains when I heard there was an explosion with the shuttle launch. I optimistically thought that they would recover and rescue the crew until the chair lift operator told us they were gone forever. It hit me really hard. This day still has special meaning for me as my son was born on January 28th exactly 10 years later.

  • Greg

    As tragic as it was, that this tragedy was the most memorable national tragedy of the decade says a lot about what a peaceful time it was.

    Compare that to Oklahoma City, 9/11, Katrina, Iraq, or Afghanistan.

    It was the only war free decade after WWII.

    Unless we count a day or two in Grenada and Nicaragua.

  • Andrew

    Wow, Stefan – I would have been right there with you in the common area, but I have no memory of that day. Maybe I was sick? As you said, respect to our teachers for staying the course.