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I’m old. Therefore I actually have a t-shirt from my visit to Cape Canaveral in 1985 that has the original four shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and Atlantis.

At the time of the Challenger disaster, I was, according to my mom, in swimming class at the time, and she watched it on the TV in the lobby of the YMCA. Since I was so young, it’s an event that’s always been a part of my mental landscape.

I think it’s kind of a mark of cultural identity for my generation. We know by heart the video clip, and exactly what the explosion and smoke plumes looked like. We recognize on sight the Challenger mission badge, and know the names of the astronauts lost that day (including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, whose daughter is about my age – I wonder where she is now?). We who grew up holding our breaths each time the shuttles took off. Compared to now, when I think people get a little more stressed during re-entry, due to the Columbia tragedy, which is coming upon it’s 8th anniversary (Feb 3).

I can definitely tell you where I was when that happened. I was with the Heaven’s Handful crew at a hotel here in Columbia, getting ready for Honduras puppet training. I think we heard about it either from other guests at the hotel, or a phone call from someone. But I don’t think we had the full story until we were at Shakespeare’s later in the day, and watched the video footage, which was, of course, being played over and over.

Kennedy Space Center, Fall 1985. I'm the tiny one in the middle.

Kennedy Space Center, Fall 1985. I'm the tiny one in the middle.