My Personal Connection to the Space Shuttle Challenger: Remembering That Tragic Day

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We were driving around Nashville in our old van.  It was a snow day.  Well, sort of.  It was one of those days when it snowed, but cleared up quickly.  We had moved into our new house just the year before.  My parents had been searching for wallpaper for the house.

We had the radio on in the van – loud enough to hear but not loud enough for us to really pay attention.  I was sitting in the back seat.  In between stores, as we were driving down the road, I faintly heard someone on the radio say “The space shuttle Challenger has exploded.”

I remember this day vividly for two reasons.  First of all – it was a major event in American history.  Tragedies such as this are things that scar your mind.  Assassinations, natural disasters, bombings, and other things such as this are the things you tell your children about in the manner of “I remember when…” or “I can remember where I was when…”

The second reason I remember this day was because of a personal connection to the shuttle.  One of the reasons the space shuttle Challenger was so important was because of the Teacher-in-Space program.  They were going to put a school teacher in space along with the other astronauts on the voyage.

One of my best friends in elementary school was Travis Fakes.  His mother was a teacher for Lebanon High School, and she qualified as one of two finalists for the state of Tennessee for the program.  Out of over 10,000 applications, she was in the top 100 of teacher candidates.

She did not make it to the top 10 – but I remember how shaken she was, and how shaken our community was when the explosion occurred.  Here’s a list of the top 100 or so candidates: http://www.worldspaceflight.com/bios/teacher.php

Tragedies like this are inevitable.  They have occurred all throughout history, and will continue to happen.  But, we continue to move forward.  The space program did not stop because of that tragic event.  It has had other tragedies occur as well.  But, the space program continues.

And now, I continue to have a connection to the space program through my brother-in-law, Philip Garton, who works for Boeing and has had his hand in helping with the International Space Station, and also with the new Orion program.

I praise God that He has given mankind a can-do attitude, a resolve to continue through struggles, and an ability to bounce back.

Tonight, pray for the families of those whose lives were taken on the Space Shuttle Challenger 29 years ago today.

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