The Challenger space shuttle exploded on this day 27 years ago. For those too young to remember, people immediately began comparing it to the Kennedy assassination. Everyone remembers where they were when they first heard the news. The feelings were of an ecumenical loss.
The day after however the stories quickly turned to coping. This was pre-9/11, pre-periodic shooting sprees like in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown. There had been a long span between national tragedies when the Challenger suddenly exploded just 73-seconds after takeoff against a cobalt blue Florida sky. As such why it had happened (an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster failed at liftoff) wasn’t really the issue. Only that it did happen.
Millions viewed the Challenger launch live because of the presence of crew member Christa McAuliffe, who was the first member of the Teacher in Space Project and the (planned) first female teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. Accordingly, the media quickly centered on ‘how are the children taking this?’
As sad experience has since shown, this is almost always the way we’ve addressed such monumental loss, even more so today. Yet the sense then, as it remains today, is the more we ask, ‘how do you feel’ to the children, the more we question how it is we feel ourselves. (more…)