“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.