Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Remember...

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. Many people in my generation (mid-40s) consider it our Kennedy Assassination: we all know where we were when we first heard about it. I was in Philadelphia, 10th grade. I had finished lunch early and wanted a minute to myself, so I went to my English class a few minutes before lunch was over. My teacher, Mr. Claus (seriously), said "have you heard?" I hadn't. We wept a little together, and hugged, and said "no, no, no..." over and over again. As other people came in, it got noisy and the atmosphere changed, even as we were still discussing the accident. Teenagers aren't the most sensitive bunch, after all. But for a moment, Mr. Claus and I had understood what had just happened, and been with the right person to process it.

But I also remember...

The Iranian hostages being freed. 1980. It was the first time another story trumped the headline of a presidential election. 

Nelson Mandela being freed. 1990. I was a student at a college in Virginia, waiting for my technical theatre class to start, when another student walked up to the board and wrote HE'S FREE! Most of us exploded, cheering, and thrilled, and in tears. A friend of mine looked at me and asked "who?" I said "Nelson Mandela!" And she asked "Who?" All I could do was shake my head at her.

Terry Anderson being freed. By 1991, I was a student at Northeastern University in my beloved Boston. We were all sitting around the table, in the Union, when a friend came up and said "Have you heard? He's free! Terry Anderson is free!" This time, all of us cheered and wept and hugged.

Scott O'Grady, coming out of the Bosnian woods, to be rescued. By 1995, I was a military wife ~ and moreso one than I had expected to be. We all thought he was dead. Sure, he might still be alive, but he was a dead man running. There was no way he could evade until there was a way to get him. And then...Then the news told us he was safe and sound. I was at an airport, half watching a running news report, half reading a book, when suddenly, I was riveted. Blinking back tears of joy.

Perhaps the Challenger is The Event of my generation. But for me, there were others ~ more hopeful, less destructive ~ that I remember, as well. And for that, I'm grateful.

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.

ETA ~ It's fascinating to hear from people of "the Kennedy Generation" ~ both here and privately ~ that they, too, remember the Challenger. This may be the first time I've taken the opportunity to discuss it as an adult with other adults. Very cool, and thanks to everyone who has shared their memories of the day with me!


MikeC said...


I had been out in the working world for 10+ years at the time of the Challenger disaster, but I remember exactly where I was and how I found out.

I have to correct your recollection of the release of the Iranian hostages. It was Inauguration Day 1981 after the 1980 November election. Incoming president Reagan and outgoing president Carter were in their limos on the way to the inauguration site as the hostages were being released, and the networks showed split screen coverage of the events in D.C. and the release of the hostages.

I don't know that the release trumped the event of the inauguration, but the TV networks certainly struggled to balance the two.



BostonPobble said...

Mike ~ YES! Yes, yes, yes! That's right! Because what I remember (and where my "it trumped" comment/memory comes from) is our local newspaper had the hostages' headline over the headline and picture about Reagan being president. That would have been the inauguration, rather than the election. Both headlines were above the fold, but the hostages were on top. Thanks for the correction!

Ian Lidster said...

I still remember the Challenger 'event' so vividly. I was in newspaper work at the time and I remember I was interviewed by the local TV station and I barely knew how to put a face on the horrific nature of it all after I was asked a dumb question about my thoughts. I couldn't say 'fucking awful' on a TV show.

BostonPobble said...

Ian ~ Tragedies tend to bring out the stupid in many media venues. You were wise to filter yourself, even if they didn't filter themselves.