Memory Lane: Space Shuttle Challenger

I was in my freshman year French class.

My French teacher, God rest his soul, was a weird dude. I wish I remembered his name. He wore the widest ties with the craziest patterns, completely mismatched outfits, and often appeared to be in his own French-speaking la-la land.

But hey, when I traveled to Paris for spring break one year, I had enough high school French under my belt to get by.

It started to snow. Then the principal came on the public announcement system. I thought for sure they were going to send us home early — that an Erie blizzard was starting up.

So what she told us instead didn’t make sense at first.


They didn’t send us home early. When I got home from school that day, I watched the footage of it on the news.

This was the days before cable news, before the 24-hour news cycle. Interest in the launch was probably higher than usual because of the presence of a teacher on board the shuttle.

They played it over and over again. I finally turned it off.

“Why do they keep showing it?” I asked my mom. She shrugged at me; I remember she looked sad and troubled, touched by the deaths of those astronauts.

“They announced it at school,” I told her. “I thought they were sending us home early.”

“It started to snow right when it happened,” she told me. “I wondered about that. If the launch had something to do with the weather. Isn’t that strange?”


Today, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off for NASA’s final shuttle mission. As I listened to the news this morning, I thought about Christa McAuliffe, and that long-ago classroom. About the legacy of space flight, about what comes next.

I wonder if my children will travel to the stars, to the moon, to other planets. If they want to, I hope they get the opportunity. What a dream that would be.

Do you remember the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster? Where were you? Do you think your kids will go into space?