Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It Seems Like Yesterday

Christa McAuliffe

Super Bowl XXXXV (or VL) is weeks away, and controversies over Skins and Amy Chua's latest book seem to dominate the news now that the Tucson shootings have (sadly) fallen somewhat out of the limelight and Keith Olbermann's abrupt departure from MSNBC after a suspicious buyout by a Republican-controlled Comcast Communications occurred has failed to generate much freedom of the press discussion. But 25 years ago, even though Super Bowl XX was fast approaching, everyone's thoughts were on NASA and the launch of the space shuttle Challenger...due to Christa McAuliffe's presence as the first true civilian to be rocketed into space. I had a special interest in the happenings since I was one of the thousands whom NASA rejected as applicants to be the first teacher launched into outer space.
I had spent a month in preparation for submitting my application: an enormously comprehensive, 40-page document that contained a personal statement, an essay detailing what I would study and how students would benefit from my experience, and the qualifications that I felt made me the best possible choice. Letters of recommendation were, quite obviously required as well. I, however, had an ace int he hole to my way of thinking.
That winter I had constructed a virtually life-sized model of the space shuttle out of snow in my front yard. The local newspaper photojournalist Kevin knew a great shot when he saw it, and the photo and accompanying article made it to the big-city newspaper in MIlwaukee. I was certain that this would be the final piece to the "Pick Darrell Patterson" puzzle that would sway NASA. How could they refuse?
Well, refuse they did, and while I was disappointed, I was still keenly interested in the event.
Called to the phone from class on January 28, 1986, I was dumbfounded when a reported asked me how I felt about the tragedy...since I had been in class all day, this conversation was the first I'd heard about it, and I was decidedly filled with ambivalence: horrified that the unimaginable was now reality, yet a bit relieved that I was still breathing. It was definitely one of those moments when I had to step back and rethink things.
The time has gone by...we've had yet another shuttle disaster (Columbia in 2003) and NASA has continued its move to explore space, yet now, I don't think people even really notice it anymore. For those of us that remember Kennedy's absurd promise to take an American to the moon and bring him home again, nothing is routine.
So, on the 28th of this month, stop for a moment and remember Christa McAuliffe: pioneer.
I know I will.


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