30 Years

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. I remember sitting in Ms. Coffey’s classroom, watching the event on a big TV that was strapped to the rolling cart with a VCR loaded on the shelf below. It was the same TV we used to watch Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas just a few weeks earlier.

It was to be the 25th shuttle mission. Shuttle missions were such a regular occurrence that launches and landings had become a non-news item. We, like schools across America, were especially interested in this mission, though, because it involved a teacher, Christa McAulliffe, who was to be the first teacher in space. It was supposed to be a mission to raise interest in math and science.

You know what happened.

As I read the news coverage of the anniversary yesterday, I came across video of Ronald Reagan’s speech from January 28, 1986. In November of 1984, Reagan voters painted the electoral map red – except for Walter Mondale’s home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Now all of America looked to Reagan to make sense of the day’s tragedy.

In 4 minutes and 25 seconds, Reagan took all of us, especially the schoolchildren who watched the event on TV, through the heartbreak of the day’s loss. He remembered the members of Challenger’s crew, then he used their courage as inspiration for all of us to continue to dream, to explore, to push the boundaries of space and knowledge. Well, watch for yourself.

The speech was written by Peggy Noonan. Thirty years later, it’s still moving.

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