Imagine A History Teacher Making History

“Imagine a history teacher making history.” — Christa McAuliffe

January 28th marks a day when I can remember exactly where I was in 1986.

I was a college student, studying to be a teacher. I was at my apartment, between classes, warming up leftovers for lunch. I was standing in front of the television with a bowl and fork in my hand. I was watching history.

Today’s historic event had special meaning for me. I was studying to be a teacher and a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, the first ever ordinary citizen, would accompany astronauts into space. I also knew one of the finalists. My former government and American History teacher had vied for her very spot. My parents sent me newspaper clippings of his interviews. It was big news in our hometown.

I was in awe of Christa McAuliffe. I knew she was doing something I would never be brave enough to do. Scary. Reckless. Inspiring. Whatever you want to call it, I am grateful for the people who are not as chicken as I am. People who dare to explore and expand horizons and conquer the unknown.

I remember leaving church in the middle of mass when I was a young girl. My mother was crying and my father ushered us out quickly. Later, my mom explained that she was very upset about how the priest was criticizing the US government spending on the space program. It was a popular hot topic in the press. We’d already been to the moon. What was the point with continuing?

But it was new technology in the space program and discoveries in space that trickled down to the medical community. My mom’s father, my grandfather, had a rare nervous disorder. When my mother was a teenager, doctors gave my grandfather only months to live. He defied the odds thanks to modern medical technology. Science from the space program, developed for astronauts, had kept my grandfather alive so that his granddaughter was able to meet him, know him and develop a relationship with him. He, with the combined help of space technology and modern medicine, lived 21 years past his 6 month death sentence.

Today, I will be taking a moment of silence to honor those braver than I.

To honor the pioneers, the explorers, the inventors.

To honor those willing to take great risks so that others may gain greater understanding and knowledge.

To honor history teachers making history.

The Challenger Crew - January 28, 1986


Filed under Observations, People

10 responses to “Imagine A History Teacher Making History

  1. Thanks for reminding us what a wonderful contribution the space program has given us, far beyond what we’d think or possibly ever recognize. I wish her flight had turned out differently and she had been able to float in space, teach her experiments…but I guess she’s still teaching even now..teaching us all to be brave and try new things and not let fear of the unknown slow us down.

  2. I remember where I was that day too. I watched with my classmates as the tragedy struck. We were having a party to celebrate them. At the end of the day, I still wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.

  3. This post is so lovely.
    I lived in Tampa, Fl at the time of the explosion and my Uncle worked at the Cape. It was so beyond the beyond– heart-wrenching.
    Thank you for the personal reminder of how much the space program has contributed to our lives as well as the others who have stepped out with exceptional courage.

    I will join you for a moment of silence.

  4. Brilliant post.
    This was the first national news I remember in my lifetime. I can still see the Time cover.

  5. What a beautiful tribute, both to Christa McAuliffe and your grandfather.

  6. The Challenger disaster shook me to my core. We were all fans of Christa — she was one of us. Wonderful tribute.

  7. Thank you for commemorating seven very brave people in such a wonderful tribute.

  8. I spent all day on the 28th avoiding reading or listening to anything about the Challenger because I selfishly didn’t want to relive the tragedy and sadness. Then I saw your post and couldn’t turn away. I read every word. Thank you for reminding me that their sacrifice meant so much to so many, including me.

  9. Jane, I remember exactly where I was when the Challenger crashed. I remember Christa McAuliffe and her story.
    This is a necessary and important tribute. I’m taking a moment of silence right now to pay homage to these people who risked their lives in the name of space, expanding new frontiers and progress.

  10. I still cry every single time someone says her name. I cannot cannot cannot not cry. I was in class, watching with everyone else. And we looked at each other, and the teacher, and each other. Things like that don’t happen. It was up there with my parents’ divorce on the shake-my-faith-in-everything-I-believe scale.
    Thanks for the tribute. It’s our generation’s Kennedy’s assassination.

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