We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.
-- President Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster
Many times during my life I've heard people say they can remember exactly where they were when JFK was assassinated. I can't relate to that experience since I was only 6 months old. I can vaguely remember when his brother RFK was killed, but I don't have any recollection of MLK's death, either. I don't actually recall when we landed on the moon nor do I really remember Apollo 13 having difficulty and having to return to earth. However, I was in my last semester as an undergraduate when the Challenger disaster happened. I had left the music building and went to my apartment for some reason. My roommate was there watching TV. She stated that the Challenger had just blown up. I stared at the TV in shock and sat down for a while to watch. It was an unbelievable sight to see.
I can remember that day in February 2003 when the Columbia was re-entering the atmosphere. I was watching a news channel of some sort that morning, and I can remember the weatherman stating that the shuttle was scheduled to land in about 15 minutes in Florida. I began channel surfing and as I came back around the same channel a few minutes later there was a ticker scroll at the bottom of the screen stating that all contact with the shuttle had been lost. I watched this for several minutes as I became aware that the shuttle was gone. Burned up. At first, there was speculation of terrorist activity that was later dismissed. As the days wore on, I watched information on TV about the Israeli pilot. It seems that he flew on the mission to bomb a nuclear facility in either Iran or Iraq some years earlier. He was late in returning from this mission and it was speculated that something had happened to him, but he did eventually return safely.
I salute all of those who have given their lives in the pursuit of making this a better place to live and work. Some folks may think that we spend too much money on space ventures and the like. I frankly haven't come to a conclusion one way or the other on that, but these are people just like the rest of us. People who have families, hobbies and interests, homes, kids, etc. Kids who now are missing a parent because of disaster. People like you and me.