Challenger tragedy – I was 12, in 6th grade at PS 26. My best friend Vicky and I had volunteered to help out at school by going out to the parking lot at lunchtime to collect the kindergarten kids who came in for the afternoon half day program, since it was a long walk from the bus to their classroom – like little ducklings they’d follow behind us and we’d escort them safely to class.
I had just come back from doing that on this particular day and my classmate John stopped me in the hallway and said – “Did you hear? The rocket blew up!” or words to that effect. I didn’t know what he was talking about at first, thought it might be some kind of joke. Then I walked into my class and Mrs. Ryan was giving us the sad news. Then we all trooped in to the library to watch the grim coverage on the old TV on its rickety metal stand with wheels. It’s still so vivid in my memory.
Later, in college I found out that my astronomy professor had been on the panel that chose Christa McAuliffe to be a part of the program and he still seemed sad about it. Was still one of the best classes I ever took.
This poem has always given me chills:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
According to Wikipedia, the author was a pilot who died in a mid-air collision during WW2 and gained posthumous fame for the poem.
“John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (June 9, 1922 – December 11, 1941) was an American aviator and poet who died as a result of a mid-air collision over Lincolnshire during World War II. He was serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he joined before the United States officially entered the war. He is most famous for his poem High Flight.”
This poem was sweetly illustrated by Berke Breathed in his amazing, melancholy comic strip Bloom County, featuring the hopes and desires of a flightless bird, Opus, and his friends. I miss that comic strip. (click on the image to see a full size view of this comic)