1986: 25 Years Later

I was 8 years old in January of 1986. Many of you reading this article were either too young or not even born to remember that year. My memories of that year are all too few and diluted. But more than any birthday memory, or Christmas memory of that year, a single memory stands out.

It was a school day. Tuesday, January 28th 1986 to be exact. I remember we went back to our classrooms after lunch. While we waited for the teacher, a schools aid came into the classroom pushing a large TV on a cart; positioning it in front of our desks. Soon after the teacher came in, she turned on the TV. We thought we were going to watch some educational programming. That happened every now and then. But without saying a word, she turned it to a local channel, where a Breaking News Report was on. All of the kids in the class were talking and laughing amongst themselves, the teacher said nothing. Suddenly as she turned from the TV to face us, the classroom got silent as we watched the images on the screen. Everyone saw the footage on TV, but it was the caption at the bottom of the screen that took everyone by surprise.


For the next several hours or so we were fixed on the Late Breaking News. We saw the space shuttle break up shortly after takeoff over, and over, and over again. We didn’t quite understand what we were watching but we knew it was something serious and important. The teacher finally spoke, telling us that the Space Shuttle Challenger is no more, and the brave individuals hoping to go into outer space a no longer alive.

To me it was surreal. I kept looking and listening to Peter Jennings talk about the Space Shuttle, NASA and how this shocking event would forever change America. He called the crew and passengers on board the Challenger Shuttle “heroes” and how they would be forever remembered. He spoke of Ronald McNair, Christa McAuliffe, Ellison Onizuka, and the entire challenger crew. I remember racing home and continuing watching the coverage, my eyes glued to the TV and watching the explosion countless times, all during the evening and well into the night, realizing that the Challenger breaking up violently wasn’t some July 4th display gone bad, but in that one moment in time, seven brave individuals lost their lives and were never to be seen or heard from again.

The destruction of Space Shuttle Challenger taught me a lesson about challenges we face in our lives. Its somewhat fitting that this particular space shuttle is named challenger; a derivation of the word challenge. Now that I am blessed with a job in the aerospace industry, I’ve learned that any endeavor or challenge isn’t without its share of failures or setbacks. What happened to NASA on January 28, 1986 was definitely a setback. It wasn’t their first, and it definitely wasn’t their last as the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 would see to that.

This is one of the significant memories I have as a child. Along with the Berlin Wall coming down, the image of Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28th will always be with me.

-Darold Ingram


~ by daroldingram on February 2, 2011.

One Response to “1986: 25 Years Later”

  1. Wow – Thanks for sharing this, Darold! I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever heard about that day from the point of someone who lived through it. It seems like it was very similar to the devastation of 9/11. I’m glad these brave people are still remembered today. May they rest in peace.


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