I Was Thirteen

I remember running to the house from the school bus stop, making my way to the television as fast as I could. My brother and I were alone in the house, my parents would be home in a few hours. Back then there weren’t many television channels, so I found it very quickly. I stared at the set for at least an hour, watching with great intent.

There were no cartoons to watch, no children’s programming. Just a few seconds of video than ran in a loop. They played it over and over, like the way a child plays with a new toy on Christmas morning. I watched every bit of it in silence. I had to see the video before it really hit me.

It was after dinner when I went to my room, wallpapered with spaceships and moon maps from National Geographic. The poster-board from my Apollo 13 report was in the closet. My desk was somewhere under the Star Wars toys, sci-fi novels and random collection of childhood objects.

Rosewood Middle School went silent shortly after 11:40 a.m., EST, on January 28, 1986. We quietly honored a crew of astronauts we would never meet, a crew of astronauts many of us wanted to be when we grew up. I think it hurts more to think about it today than ever before.

It was January 28, 1986 when I lost the dream of being an astronaut. I was thirteen.


5 Replies to “I Was Thirteen”

  1. Quite ironically, I got my STS-107 mission patch sticker today. I shared a very sad smile with the co-worker who handed it to me.

  2. I was 15. I don’t think it will ever have the same reality it did for you–I wanted to be a doctor, was into biology, reading the Dune series….. I remember thinking that space ships don’t blow up, that explosions like that only happen when there are special-effects guys in charge.

    But I feel sorry for your 13-year-old self, more than the astronauts.

  3. I was asleep on the couch. I had stayed home sick that day from school. My mom woke me up and I shushed her saying “I’ve seen shuttle launches before. I’m going back to sleep”.

    She told me this was different. And she was right. I spent all day watching the TV from the couch under my blanket. It would be 11 years, 9 months and 14 days before I felt that same feeling of loss. Before I sat in front of the television watching the same images over and over while news anchors grasped for something to say.

    While I was older at the time and able to process things better as an adult, I also had a son by then. He wasn’t old enough to realize what was going on, so that’s some small solace, but I knew the world had changed from the one he’d been born into.

    Just as my world had changed almost 12 years previous from the one I’d been born into. Older, wiser, sadder.

  4. I was also fifteen when I saw challenger explode. I was looking at the television when it happened, I was at the hospital in Columbia SC. Although it was only a few people that died, I really felt like millions of voices screamed, and then were silenced all at once. I’ll never forget that moment.

  5. I was 3 and the footage of the Challenger explosion is my first clear memory. I was home sick and my mother was letting my watch TV because my father was out of town and she needed a break. After watching the footage over and over for most of the day, we went out to Indian for dinner to get away from the news coverage.

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