Memories of the Challenger

This is one page of many, check out the intro at I Remember Challenger for others.

This page currently edited by: Dagwood. Past editor: Junior

I was 22, and in the Navy stationed aboard the USS Simpson (FFG56)when the tragedy happened. We were in Mayport (Jacksonville) Florida for training at the time. I was a cook and we were just serving lunch when our chief came in and said, "The space shuttle just blew up!". Everyone made for the messdeck to see the TV and the chowline cleared out like 'General Quarters' was just sounded. In no time word got around that we were leaving port to assist with..... well whatever we could, I suppose. I recall going outside and marvelling at how even way up north in Jacksonville, the column of smoke from the launch/explosion could be seen in the cold, clear blue sky. Eerie! Within an hour or so we were underway, heading south a top speed. Around dusk, word was passed that debris was being sighted in the water. A hush came over the whole ship then, as if we had entered a church. Everyone seemed to speak in quiet voices, nobody laughed or was kidding around as we set to work. We launched our motor whale boat and began to recover some of the pieces that were still floating. When the boat was full, the debris was moved to the hangar where it was inventoried by the executive officer. I was only able to identify some of the items I saw; A 'space sextant', a camera bag, an experiment involving insects in test tubes (They appeared to still be alive!). The most significant find was what we identified as a bag belonging to Christa McAuliffe. From what I recall, there was a hairbrush, some cosmetics, and what seemed to be the components of an experiment involving paper airplanes. The next day we pulled into Port Everglades to offload what we had salvaged. The operation was handled with quite a bit of security, complete with announcements about which areas of the ship were off limits, etc. We were allowed ashore, but we were ordered to not discuss what we had seen or did, especially to anyone in the press. A friend of mine and I walked two miles to a payphone where we called home. For the next few days, our sonar gear was put to use searching the seabed for the larger pieces. Whenever we entered the area where the remains of the shuttle had fallen, that same 'library-hush' came over the ship and crew. It was never discussed, we just all seemed to feel it. Months later, we were awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation Ribbon with an Operations 'O', and we all received a certificate thanking us for our efforts. An event in my life that I will never forget.

From: Gary Murawski

I was in 2nd period math class in the 9th grade at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Hamilton, Ohio when it happened. I remember that the school seemed subdued but that was about it...there was no announcement even though quite a few people were in the library watching it. I didn't find out until after school when my dad came and picked me up. He normally didn't do that since it was an easy walk home for me but he pulled up and reached across and opened the passenger door, I bent down to say hi and he said "Did you know the challenger exploded today?" it was the first I'd heard of it and it was a surprise to me since nobody said anything in school...there were no announcements or anything...I remember CNN playing it over and over for weeks after and all the stuff after that, the recovery operations, the bad jokes...the anger I felt when someone defaced the cover of the time magazine that had the picture of the explosion that we had in the school library with falling stick figures that were screaming help me...I remember doing my share of crying. I had a science teacher that was supposedly not to far back on the list of teachers to go but I'm not sure that was true...I remember it was a very hard year.

From: Anthony Welker

I was a school then when the shuttle exploded, I was seven. My mom picked me up she was not aware of the Challenger and we found out once it was on the news gently one tear came the first time I every cried watching the news. It was the so sad watched the shuttle exploding into flames. It was very, very sad..................

From: Jessica

From England, I Watched the launch live on tv. I was 12 years old, and the excitement was amazing! I remember watching as the shuttle exploded. Even at 12, I knew the significance of what was happening. Even to this day, the impact of what I saw has never left me. It is the biggest most impacting thing I have ever seen. I visited Florida around 3 years after the event, and my vacation seemed irrelevant. I just felt a strange sense of being in the area where it all happened. I felt as though I was re-living the event, and all these years later, I still remember those 7. And, to me, they really are my heroes. God bless.

From: Lee Wright

God bless those brave 7, they never knew what was about to happen. It will burn in our memories forever. And God bless their parents. That day, well, it was heart-ripping. Grace Corrigan, Christas mum, she saw it unfold before her eyes! It still rips me apart to this day. God only knows how she felt/and still feels! God bless all families touched by this tragic event. Even to this day, the pain stays. God bless all. Lee, England

From: LEE

I remember the day of the Challenger disaster. I was in second grade, and my class was having a spelling bee. It was my turn to spell a word, when the school counselor came into the classroom and told my teacher that the Challenger had just exploded. Later that day, as I arrived home from school, I walked in on my father crying while watching the news. He was crying over the tragedy. To this day, that is the only time I have ever seen him cry.

From: Jeremiah

I was living in Plano, Texas at the time the Challenger exploded. I was in the 8th grade and I was told by one of my friends that the Challenger exploded. I didn't believe at first until my teacher told me it was true. I still cry when I think about it. When Columbia had it tradgy it brought back all the emotions I had on Jan 28, 1986. Tiffany

From: Tiffany

I wasn't born yet when the Challenger exploded, I was born 2 years later. However I feel like I was actually there, I've watched the shuttle explode countless times. I was named after Christa McAuliffe, so I've always had a fascination with space

From: Christa

I suppose I was in 7th grade. Before going to school I was woken up by my mother, saying that something had happened to Challenger. Being a space buff, I knew them all, even built a plastic model of it. I knew how fast it was going and how high and knowledge is a deadly thing, both at the time and in hindsight. The first thing the teacher asked that day was if we knew why that day was different than the others. Almost without emotion I raised my hand and said Challenger had been lost, there was an uncomfortable silence in the next few minutes, digesting the concept of a multibillion dollar piece of machinery and weighing it against the greater loss of experienced and dedicated individuals, people who knew what they were doing and accepted the risks however minimal they were claimed at that time. I'm sure they knew what margins were there and how bad things could get in a hurry if there was a systems anomaly. You push that fear down, you accept it and you do your job. All tragedies associated with the space programs of all nations have been a wakeup call. Sergei Korolev never saw the N1 take out the launch complex, killing scores of people, the risk is universal. The Soviet/Russian experience is broadly comparable to our own, there are no second chances when you are near several million pounds of propellant gone wrong. Apollo 1 was a terrible accident in its own way, but one that was valuable, in each NASA incident there's been a concerted effort to understand the engineering failures and to make fixes, but we cannot be complacent, we cannot forget those lessons learned by the sacrifices of these incidents. Challenger was a mixture of bad planning, missed schedules and engineering pressed beyond its limits. If we are to truly move on and be a nation, and a race of space farers, we must not forget the consequences of failure. To do otherwise is a failure worse than the accident itself, it is an insult to what they believed in. Accepting a geniune accident is one thing, accepting something that had warning signs within NASA is another. And I'm afraid Columbia had proved this correct. They forgot, and now we all face the consequences, both in a social and a political sense. It will not be the last, but let it be the last that we could have avoided by simply listening to those who had questions. Bipod ramp foam failures happened on a number of occasions, it was a NASA commitment that NO piece of debris from the launch stack should hit the orbiter, ever, this was a directive almost 20 years old. I guess I look back at my innocence of grade school and thought it was so simple, that the fix would be so easy. It hasn't, and it will not be. It will have to come from everyone, whether they are a part of the space program directly or not, we all have something to contribute to the vision of those who have gone beyond.

From: Jason

I remember this day always because we had a snow day in Pittsburgh. I was next door playing video games, and when I went home, my Dad (who was home recovering from surgery) told me about the Challenger. I was 13, and all I could think of was how the 'Teacher in Space' thing was so hyped, and how Christa wasn't the lucky winner after all. This was a tragedy, but I admit that mostly I remember this event in 1986 because my Dad died 2 weeks later - February 10, 1986. Even now I always associate the two events.

From: Donna Koczaja

I was in kindergarten when it happened. The teachers had us all settled on the carpet and the TV was on. I remember the gasp from the teacher as it exploded. It took a moment before either of the teachers could move to turn it off. I remember the shape of the explosion so vividly it's frightening. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't really know what. I was convinced that the people would be okay. I guess my father didn't want me to hang on to false hopes. He was an engineer who literally designed rocket motors for a living, so while my kindergarten classmates were getting the "bad things happen sometimes" talks, I got that as well as a crash course in rocket propulsion-- including the difference between solid and liquid fuel. I can still remember my dad sitting with me on the floor with quadrille pad and a mechanical pencil, drawing simple diagrams. Now it seems so odd that he was doing that for a 6 year old, but I guess it was easier for him to deal with it that way himself.

From: Cammy

I was 12 years old. I was so sad when it happened. I started crying. The whole world was miserable. All I know is that they are still loved today.

From: Brandy Calhoun

I was 23 when the event occured. I remember watching it on the television as the tears streamed down my face. I can still see as it exploded in the air. That image will never be erased from my mind!

From: Lisa

It was my 16th birthday and I was at school when that happened. We were all watching it for class, history I think. I remember just sitting there and crying over the whole thing. I felt so bad about it all and there was nothing any of us could do. Cindy in IL

From: Cindy B in IL

I was 10 years old when the Challenger had exploded. I was so excited because my sister's teacher was Christa McAuliffe. We and many other of her students were watching as Ms. McAuliffe was lifting off into space. Then we and my family had seen the explosion. We starting screaming and crying we were so upset! But I really remember the year of 1986 because my sister died two months after.

From: Veronica Zimmerman

I remember being home sick from school. I was in 4th grade. I was laying on the couch looking at the Pound Puppy certificate of adoption I got for him and watching TV. As I saw the Challenger explode. I looked at my mom and said "Is that supposed to happen?" My mom was like oh my god. The rest of the day I watch TV and wonder why the Challenger did what it did.

From: Jenelle

I can remember precisely where I was when the Challenger went down. I was in high school (Ganesha High School- Go Giants!) and I can remember watching the whole thing on T.V. We only got to watch it because the teacher (I remember her name but not sure of the spelling!) was on it. But the most vivid thing I can remember was the way I felt. At first, I was kind of nonchalant about it because we saw shuttle flights so often. But as I watched it go to pieces, my heart got heavy and I cried like a baby. After all, everyone on that flight had family at the Space Center watching it happen before their eyes and there wasn't anything that all of the space smarties could do about it. God Bless the families of the victims of the Challenger Disaster!!!

From: Jackie Parker

It was the worst day I can remember

From: Logan

I was not yet born or in the process of being made. I am 13 and I realize that space shuttles are so neat but so dangerous and that I always liked the thought of going to the moon till I heard about the shuttle exploding. I was alive to see Columbia explode and it is very heart breaking. My heart goes out to all those who lost their love ones and for the ones who didn't know their parent.

From: Lacey Petry

What I remember about when the challenger blew up. I was recovering from a broken leg, and I had just heard on the news about the Challenger blowing up. That was a sad day for everyone, especially the familys of the Astronauts. I also remember all the corny jokes that were made up as commic relief.

From: john morris

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