January 28, 2009
Today is the anniversary of the Challenger disaster, which occurred in 1986. Of the seven crew members that died just after the launch of the shuttle, one (Christa McAuliffe) was a school teacher, who was chosen amongst thousand of applicants to participate in a NASA programme to teach from space. Because she was on board, 49% of American primary school children, including me, were watching the shuttle launch live. I was in second grade, and I can still remember where the television screen was vis-a-vis the rest of the classroom, and where I was sitting. I don’t remember what I thought or how I, my friends or my teacher (Mrs. Story) responded, but I know that it was one of several (and by far the most sombre) things that happened in my childhood that grounded me in the brutish side of the adult world.
Some of the other brutish things that stand out in my mind are political, or early forays into the wider world, from the confines of very un-global Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, where we lived from 1982 to ’88. One: the 1984 Presidential election, when I was pulling massively for Walter Mondale and his female Vice-Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, and I watched them lose every state but one. Two: Hands Across America, a campaign to raise money for charities working with the homeless that intended to build a human chain across the US. On the side of a highway near aforementioned Pinetop-Lakeside, it was my family, a couple of other people and a sad little boom-box playing the Hands Across America theme song weakly. I really thought that there would be a human chain stretching as far as the eye could see.
Three: learning that we could no longer launch balloons because popped balloon pieces could kill birds (balloons seemed so innocent). And finally, missing Halley’s Comet. Here’s to hoping that the world doesn’t get any more disappointing before our next chance to see it in 2061…