One of my earliest memories is of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding during takeoff while live on the air. As a nine year old, I was too young to form any memories I can say for 100 percent certainty are true. Were we watching television when it happened? I cannot remember. I do remember the horrific news replays of the accident in the days following the event. A couple of months after the Challenger exploded; my class received a weekly reader with more information about the victims. Our teacher encouraged us to keep this issue of the magazine. I pasted the photographs in an album that was later soaked by water but still exists in my childhood mementos.
As children, we were aware a teacher was going into space. For many children, I think especially the young girls, this was an incredible event. We could be not simply teachers but astronauts in space! We were aware Christa McAuliffe would be the first teacher in space and excited. Our teachers were excited. To go from teaching to flying into space must have been an incredible thought. I feel for Christa and how many must have felt similar as we watched the Challenger explode not long after takeoff.
It has been many years since the Challenger exploded. In my own life, I have undergone three separate cancer diagnoses (beginning ironically in 1986), grew older and graduated high school, got married, and moved on with my life as best as possible. Even with so many years passed, I take pause on the cold January day when we lost more than simply Christa but a lot of talented people behind NASA.
Since I was several months shy of my ninth birthday, I obviously was not a teacher but did catch a glimpse of how their teaching patterns in regard to the event must have changed. An event I can credit helping me was a Punky Brewster episode airing not long after the events of the Challenger. At age eight, Punky was my hero. To see her want to give up because of the devastation no one expected made me want to give up. By the end of the show when Punky was again ready to assume her dream of being an astronaut, I felt better.
What did Christa teach me as an almost nine-year-old girl while watching the explosion? Christa taught me about bravery. No one can sign on to visit space without having an amazing sense of bravery. I believe Christa wanted to teach not simply her students but others that it is important to never stop growing. She was a teacher and she wanted to visit space. Unfortunately it did not work out as any of us intended but she left a legacy I can teach my own children about. So, for that I remember Christa McAuliffe-for being a true teacher in every definition of the word.