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 remember the Challenger accident as if it were yesterday. I had just gotten home from taking an Inorganic Chemistry test and started watching the news while eating lunch (a ham and cheese on white bread with lettuce, mustard and mayo, potato chips and a lemonade). At the time I was debating which engineering curriculum to pursue, either civil or aeronautical. I chose aeronautical because of this event and enrolled in the University of Illinois Aeronautical Engineering school. When I graduated U of I, I went to work for Rockwell International – Rocketdyne Division in California where I worked on the Space Shuttle Main Engine.

From: John

I lived in Central Florida at the time. I had just graduated from UCF. I was in my back yard, with my two dogs, and I saw the flame of the Challenger go up (from a good distance, however). I took this for granted, as launches were becoming commonplace in Central Florida. But then, I know something wasn't right when I say the two contrails heading in opposite directions. I knew that wasn't normal. I knew something was wrong. I went in the house, and just then my Dad called and said, "turn on the tv... the Challenger just blew up." I hung up the phone and turned it on and heard the devastating news. I kept going back outside and looking at it. The contrails grew in size (the white plume alway does, as it get dispersed) and that seemed to magnify the great loss we all felt. Being from Central Florida, where the space program has always been a huge industry and source of great excitement, this was tragic beyond belief. I remember my brother worked at the local NBC affiliate, and they put together a montage of video of the astronauts and I watched that in the evening from the control room of the station. We all cried. We were all in shock for a long, long time. In some ways we always will be. Every time a shuttle has gone up, we all hold our breaths at that moment when it's "go for throttle up."

From: Claudia

I remember the Challenger. I was in 1st grade. At the time I lived in Ocala FL and it was common for us to watch the shuttles and jets go up. That particular morning was even more exciting at school because of a teacher going up in space. I remember seeing it go up in the sky and then it looked like it split in half. There was white smoke in the sky. The teachers rushed us back inside. The TV was on all day. It was a very quite day. I saw teachers crying. For the next week all we talked about at school was following our dreams, even if there was a big risk attached.

From: Amanda

I was in the offices of New Line Cinema reading the electric meter for the building when on the radio from a staff members desk I heard the aweful news. To this day I still tell this story when the Challeger subject comes up.

From: Phil

1/28/86 I was a first-year law student at Syracuse University and had just walked into the main lecture hall a few minutes early for a weekly class. As I was chatting with some friends, the professor entered the room, walked quickly to the podium and announced that the space shuttle had blown up. My first thought was "What an odd joke to make." Like so many others, I just couldn't comprehend that a catastrophe of that nature could befall a program that had seemingly perfected its mission.

From: Mark B.

Does anyone talk about the Challenger anymore? I looked up over 20 different sites and this is the only one even still up. Is it ever updated? I was in 4th grade in 1986. We watched the Challenger launch on TV in our classroom. My 4th grade teacher was the kind of teacher who was like a father. I have no memory of what we did the rest of the day, I only remember sitting at my desk with my classmates all around and my teacher trying to explain to us what had happened. That we wouldn't be watching Christa Mcaliff make her speech or whatever from space. The other thing that stands out in my memory is a day or 2 later, on the news they announced they had found what they thought was Christa's wrist bone, floating in the ocean. That image haunts me more than anything. I still cry when I hear about it. And the memories of the Challenger made the Columbia explosion that much more traumatic.

From: Sarah Warner

Seems like yesterday. I was in 6th grade and though it was cool because all the other 6th graders came in our class to watch it. But it wasn't cool when we realized that the shuttle had blown up. Man did the time fly....were did the 80's go??

From: Dawn

I was in basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky. standing at parade rest, waiting in the barber shop for another haircut. There is no talking allowed and the drill instructors are kinda mean, but the tv was on and when we saw the explosion it took something out of us all. A lot of us cried and we past the word back to guys who hadn't made it inside yet. The drills backed off for the rest of the day and we were allowed to talk during chow. I think that if we had not been allowed to talk about it I'd have lost it.

From: Ricky B Martin

I was 6 years old when the disaster happened and watched it on t.v. at school. We were all glued to the television because there was a teacher and she was encouraging to all of us. After it blew up the whole room was silent. I remeber being in the second chair and wondered - what just happened?? After that my teacher just turned it off and it was eerily quiet in the room. I am now 25 and I will never forget it.

From: Marie

I remember being at work on a very busy day. I was Service manager at my family's Saab franchise. As I was speaking with one of the technicians, a service customer came out from the waiting room and exclaimed "My God the shuttle just exploded on takeoff!" The whole service team went into the waiting area and watched the replays of the Challenger expolode before us. None, I think, could grasp the reality of what we were seeing. Only some minutes later when it did sink in, that tears began from customers and technicians alike. Like the rest of our country, the tragic events of that day bonded us all together in a common grief, and prayers for the 7 Astronauts and their families.

From: Chuck

I was only 7 years old when Challenger happened, and I got hit by a car later that year and had minor brain damage (if there is such a thing) so my memories before the accident (A.K.A. Challenger) are very hazy. I don't remember where I was or what I was doing when I heard. But I did know something had happened. I hope you all don't think I'm an a**hole for saying this, you have to keep in mind I was a little kid at the time, but the only thing I really remember about that day was how angry I was that they kept showing the news footage over and over again so I wasn't able to watch my tv shows. Like I said I was a little kid at the time, and how idiotic I feel for having a thought that stupid in my head at any point of my life. I didn't understand it, I didn't understand death at that time because I had never experienced it with anyone I knew. You know how you are when you're a kid, you don't know about death you just think you're going to live forever. In my later years I got to be interested in the space program and now recognize the Challenger disaster for what it was: an unspeakable tragedy. Like the Apollo 1 fire before it and the Columbia disaster after it. Actually now that I think about it I do remember one other thing about the tragedy. My mother is a big fan of John Denver (and because I've heard him so many billions of times now so am I) And I remember he wrote a song for the crew called "Flying for me" And that sort of got it through my head. They were flying for me They were flying for everyone They were trying to see a brighter day for each and everyone They gave us their light They gave us their spirit and all they could be They were flying for me, They were flying for me.

From: Murray Sherman

I was 7 at the time. We were all huddled around the tv in the classroom because a teacher was going up. I was sitting with my best friend and remember thinking someday that could be me. Then lift off time - we counted down the mins., then the seconds, then - it was just a firey mess. It took some longer than others to figure it out - we were just a first grade class of maybe 18. My best friend put his arms around me as I started to cry - at 7 yrs old I had just tasted the reality of a dream dying. As sad as the day was and still is - those 7 astronauts would want nothing short of what we are doing today....... watching america re-enter space with DISCOVERY, to head back to the fore front of what is or isn't out there - and lucky me, twenty years later I got to do it sitting beside my best friend from first grade, but this time there were cheers.

From: Mandy

I was 11 years old and in a plane flying to Florida the day of the Challenger lift-off. We had to be diverted around Cape Canavral and were told to look out one side of the plane to watch the shuttle go up. We watched it in awe, then once out of sight, we were told to sit back down and buckle up. Less than a minute later, we were told the horrible news of the explosion. We could not see anything at that time from our windows, but were told we would experience severe turbulence from the explosion- which we did. It was amazing and horrifying all at the same time to be there and see what we saw. I will never forget it.

From: Kristin

I was 25 years old and pregnant with my daughter. My doctor had taken me off work and it was my first day home. I had just settled down on the couch to channel surf when I turned the T.V. on and decided to watch the launch. I became very emotional and called my husband, crying, and all I could get out over the phone was.. "they're all dead". I was crying so hard he couldn't understand what I was trying to tell him. He thought some family members had been killed in a car accident or some other tragedy. Then he heard it come over the radio at his work. This will be remembered by baby boomers as our "Kennedy Assination". I don't know anyone my age that does not remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on that fateful/fatal morning.

From: Kemberley Gotzon

I was a senior in High School and was in study hall at the time. I had gotten permission from the teacher to go to the restroom, when I ran into a girl that I knew in the hallway. I vividly remember her telling me, "Did you hear that the Space Shuttle just blew up?" I first thought that she was playing some kind of joke and responded with, "Yeah, right!" When she gave me a serious look and said, "No, really. I just heard that it exploded on takeoff." It sent shivers down my spine. I had been, and still am, very interested in all aspects of the space program. Obviously, I had to know what had just happened. I immediately headed for the student lounge in our school. When I arrived, there was a large gathering of teachers and students standing silently transfixed in front of the television. I remember standing with them watching the news media replay the explosion over and over again. Everyone was in shock as we watched. More and more students and faculty filed into the lounge and you could hear people saying "Oh my God!" as they saw what had just happened. I will never forget that day.

From: Rob

I was in T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA, in trigonometry class. The "class clown" came in late, and we were just settling into a test-- he announced to the class that the space shuttle had exploded, and no one believed him. He was told to be quiet and get to work. As class was ending, the principal got on the PA and announced the accident-- vindicating the student who had tried to assure us he was telling the truth. It was an eerie instance of "crying wolf" which I will never forget.

From: Matthew Ebert

I remember the day the Challenger blew up. I was in pre-school, I was four years old, going on five that year. I remember that because there was a teacher going up with the astronauts, they wanted our class to watch the launch on television. I remember watching this shuttle on TV, seeing all the smoke from the boosters during the launch, and then I remember the explosion and the rocket boosters going off in different directions. We were too young to really comprehend that the explosion wasn't supposed to happen though. I remember the teacher went and turned the TV off shortly after it happened, and then she started crying. At the time, none of us really knew why, but looking back on it 19 years later, I fully understand.

From: Tom Coglianese

I was in second grade. We had been planning to watch the launch for months. My teacher, Ms. Harthen, had applied to be the teacher on the shuttle. While we were disappointed that she had not been chosen, we were still very excited to watch it. When we saw the explosion, Ms. Harthen screamed and ran from the room, leaving 25 or so seven year olds to absorb what had just happened. A few moments later, the principal came into our classroom and tried to calm us down. I went to a Lutheran school, so we all prayed for the crew and their families. We also said a prayer of thanks that Ms. Harthen had not been chosen.

From: Shawna

I was 9 years old and I remember being in Elm school. Coral Way elm sitting in my class room and looking at the tv when the accident took place. Now I'm 28 years old and I can still remember that day if it was today. I know God has those seven angels in heaven. God Bless the USA

From: Danny

I was 4 when Challenger and her crew were claimed by that fireball in the sky. It remains one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. We were in kindergarten, and since a teacher was going into space they thought it would be interesting to let the students watch the launch, instead we watched the destruction of lives and dreams. Seeing the Challenger explode was the first time I witnessed death and it haunts me to this day. Thankfully the Challenger centers exist to continue the shuttle and her crew's mission and to keep the memory alive. Tears still well up in my eyes when I read about that day and the lives lost. Seeing Discovery launch and return safely to Earth recently was so moving, Challenger and Colmubia's crew did not give their lives in vain, as President Reagan said, the future belongs to the brave, and we must have brave men and women to lead us there.

From: Tiffany

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