"January 28, 1986,11:38:00 a.m. EST. First Shuttle liftoff scheduled from Pad B. Launch set for 3:43 p.m. EST, Jan. 22, slipped to Jan. 23, then Jan. 24, due to delays in mission 61-C. Launch reset for Jan. 25 because of bad weather at transoceanic abort landing (TAL) site in Dakar, Senegal.... Explosion 73 seconds after liftoff claimed crew and vehicle. Cause of explosion was an O-ring failure in right SRB. Cold weather was a contributing factor."
I was in second grade. My teacher had been one of the 8 finalists to be the teacher who went up in the Challenger. Since she wasn't selected, the "consolation prize" was for her class, which included me, to be some part of the trip. We participate in the Student Involvement Program. We receive pictures and information from NASA about the space program, outer space, and the Challenger crew. We grew some of the seedling plants that were on the shuttle. They were going to be used for experiments in the zero gravity of space. We studied the mission learned all about the seven crew members (pictured above).
The whole class was supposed to watch the launch. But it ended up getting moved to out lunch period. My teacher arranged for us to be able to go to the cafeteria and pick up our food and then come back to the classroom to watch the launch.
It happened so fast, we missed it at first.
When we got back to the classroom, the tv was set up and waiting but our teacher wasn't there. After a few minutes she came back. "Something's happened," she said. Then she decided instead of telling us, she would just show us.
I still remember crying in the bathroom. We had one of the pictures of the crew hanging up in there.
I still remember the prayer circle we held.
I still remember the picture of Earth from space that hung near the US flag. And how that along with everything we'd been doing that year was what made me want to be an astronaut so badly. So much so that I still do to this day.
And I still remember how I couldn't turn on the tv for a week without seeing the Challenger blowing up. Again, and again, and again...
I was only seven years old. I had celebrated my birthday just 12 days before. And my life changed. No one that young should have to go through such pain.