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28 January 2013

27 years ago today I remember where I was and what I was doing

The Canessa Commentary


It’s hard to envision it, but it was 27 years ago today.

I was home for lunch — sixth-grade at Schuyler School — as I was on my days. And the memories are so vivid that I can remember having a tuna fish sandwich, with a Capri Sun juice box that day. When I got home, I did as I normally would — I turned on TV to prepare for “Super Password.” But the thing is — “Super Password” was nowhere to be found, because just moments earlier, the Space Shuttle Challenger had blown up.

At the onset, there was mass confusion.

The Challenger Crew
The networks kept showing, over and over, the ball of fire that erupted — and the subsequent fall, from nine miles over the Cape Canaveral skies — debris from the break up.

Over and over, they showed Christa McAuliffe’s parents, both in attendance for the launch on that cold January day, as the explosion happened — and some cheered, thinking it was all part of a great display as the seven astronauts propelled to space.

Over and over, there were questions, concerns — and few answers — as the narrator said what we all saw: “Obviously a major malfunction.”

While we lost a teacher in space that day in McAuliffe, there were six others who also died. I used to know their names by heart — but will admit to looking them up to ensure I got their names spelled correctly.

Liftoff — 28 Jan. 1986
Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka and Gregory Jarvis were the other six.

McNair’s memory is vivid — as I went to high school not far from a school named in his memory, Jersey City’s McNair Academic High School.

All seven lives were lost in service to our nation — and they were what true role models should be. 

That was the one and only day I ever cut a class in grammar school. I was too deeply into watching the coverage that I remained home — my own decision — and did not go back for the afternoon session in sixth-grade. My mother even says, all these years later, she would have told me to stay home if I had asked — which I didn't.

Some 27 years later, you’d never even know there was an anniversary.

Maybe it’s because it really IS 27 years later.

Maybe it’s because in the greater scheme of American tragedies, what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, makes this look microscopic.

But for its day, it was a real American loss. It’s one that, every year on this day, I pause to remember, if even for a few moments.

The debris, falling from the sky — 28 Jan. 1986.
Seven true patriots died on Jan. 28, 1986, just moments into the flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger — a mission that would have seen lessons being taught from space.

Seven lives ended prematurely that day — and some have suggested they may have even survived the initial explosion, only to die on the return to the ocean.

Twenty-seven years later, many have completely forgotten.

All these years later, I’ve never failed to remember them on this day.

And I hope the day never comes that I forget.



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