The Corner

Challenger Memory

I saw the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up. My family was living in Florida, just outside Ft. Lauderdale. I was in the 10th grade and my high school was having midterms, which meant we took tests in the morning and then had an early dismissal, supposedly so we could study for the next day’s exams. So it was a little after 11:00 AM and I was walking home. The Challenger of course launched from Cape Canaveral, which was about 200 miles to the north. Shuttle launches are bright–when the sky is clear you can see them from that far away. So I watched the Challenger go up, a bright dot in the sky followed by a white contrail. Then it just stopped, a soundless poof. I trotted home, turned on CNN, and learned the sad truth.

That night, President Reagan spoke on television: “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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