I just heard on the radio that today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle explosion. It's hard to believe that it's been so long, because I still remember it very clearly.
I was in 6th grade. They were remodeling the middle school and junior high buildings that year, so we were on a strange school schedule to allow the middle school and junior high to both fit in the same building. The junior high kids went very early in the morning and were done at lunchtime. The middle school kids stayed home until after lunch and then had a late school day.
So I was home eating lunch before school and watching the space shuttle launch on tv. I remember watching the space shuttle rise majestically from the launch pad and streak away across the sky. And then there was a strange puff of smoke and for some reason I vividly remember the strange shape of the smoke trails - with the two trails leading off from the main ball of smoke. I was confused. Was this normal? Was this what was supposed to happen? And then the shock as everyone realized what had happened and what a disaster it was.
I went to school and that was the only thing talked about. I don't remember if we had a regular class schedule, but I do remember just watching the news coverage on tv all afternoon and talking about what had happened. I remember one of my teachers with tears running down her face as she watched.
I also remember President Reagan's amazing speech about the Challenger disaster. Probably one of the most moving, beautiful speeches I've ever heard. If you haven't heard it, or haven't heard it in a while, you should listen. The line about how the astronauts "slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God" still brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.