Where were you? The Challenger Disaster 25 years later…

I was a nearly 22 year old Navy wife living in Seal Beach, California on this day 25 years ago. My oldest son, Daniel was 2, and I was 2 months away from giving birth to my second son, Jeffrey. 

I had planned to watch the launch on television that morning, but didn’t get up in time. I knew they’d show it on the afternoon news. I had turned on the TV to watch something else, and there were special reports about the launch. It had gone horribly wrong.

They had showed the video (similar to the one I have below from YouTube) a number of times, but I hadn’t seen it yet. When I saw it in its entirety, I was shocked! I knew immediately what had happened.

I knew about schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe being on the flight, as she was going to do some teaching from space. Since I didn’t have any kids in school yet, I thought it would be a great historical moment, and that my kids could see it in school when they got there.

In the video below, I instinctively turn my head when CDR Scobee says, “Go with throttle up”, because I know what’s coming. I do this, even now, because it still affects me emotionally to this day. Seven people, including Christa McAuliffe, died in the explosion.

McAuliffe’s parents are there watching, and had no idea that their daughter had just been killed.

Later that evening, instead of the State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan gave the speech in the video below. The poem he quoted at the end was only the first and last lines. The poem was called “High Flight” and coincidentally, my son Jeff, the one I was seven months pregnant with on this day a quarter of a century ago, found this poem on the internet, and I recognized the lines that Reagan used in this speech immediately.


Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

– John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Time may temper all wounds, but strong memories like this stay forever. A “where were you” moment. I don’t remember when JFK was assassinated, because it was before I was born; I don’t remember the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Robert Kennedy either, because in 1968, I was four years old.

THIS was my first “Where were you?” moment. January 28, 1986. There would be two more after this, and Lord only knows how many are yet to come in my lifetime. But this was the first, less than two weeks before my twenty-second birthday.


I’m Stef, and this is where it’s @ !~


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