The hardest part of this little daily post experiment is when I have days like today, days when I have no ideas, little motivation, and really would prefer to crawl back into bed and watch cartoons. Depression sucks, and some days are so much harder than others.
I have spent the last hour or more crying over of a song. Well, that’s not true. I’m crying because of a lot of personal bullshit, but the song was the trigger.
Last week I linked to this video of Adam Savage singing with Paul and Storm at w00tstock. The song, “The Commander Thinks Aloud,” was written about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
When I was little, I loved learning things. That’s not to say I don’t love learning now,but back then, I had a reckless abandon and tireless imagination with which I approached the world. I wanted to know everything. That was my childhood “what do you want to do when you grow up” goal: learn everything. In my mind, the easiest way to accomplish that was to be a teacher. Hey, they’re in school all the time, right?
In the winter of 1985-1986, I was obsessed with the space program, as was most of the country. The center of my obsession was Christa McAuliffe. She had been selected to be the first teacher in NASA’s Teachers In Space Program. She was a teacher, and she was going into SPACE! She was learning things! I wanted to be just like her when I grew up!
I was standing in the living room on the morning of January 28, 1986, the day the Challenger was set to launch. I was two months shy of my fifth birthday, and this was the most important event thus far in my short life. I was so excited, I couldn’t sit down. I was going to get to watch Mrs. McAuliffe go into SPACE! I can remember very distinctly watching the astronauts walk out in their orange flight suits and wave to the cameras before marching off to the shuttle. I waved back.
I stood in the middle of the room, bouncing on my toes, watching the little clock in the corner of the screen count down. When the man from NASA started the countdown, I counted with him. The rockets ignited, the NASA man said “Lift-off!” and I clapped and cheered. I watched that ship climb higher and higher, thinking I was watching the most magical thing that had ever happened in the history of the world. And then something went wrong.
Even my four-year-old mind knew something was wrong. I stopped clapping and cheering, stopped bouncing, and stared at the television. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I could just watch as the shuttle exploded. I could just watch as my hero, Mrs. McAuliffe, died.
I don’t really remember what happened after. I’m sure I cried. When I consider what was going on in my life at the time, it’s safe to assume that I cried for quite a while. Days, probably.
Fast forward a few years.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia was scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 9:16am. At 9am, I was again standing in the living room, staring at the television, watching the local newscast. The reporter was “on the scene” somewhere in Dallas because the shuttle was supposed to fly over the city on its way to Florida. The camera tilted to the sky, found the vapor trail, and I watched the shuttle explode. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. And for days after, I cried.
It strikes me as I write this that those explosions are coincidentally tied to periods of great pain and dramatic changes in my life. Within a few months of the Challenger disaster, my parents got divorced. Within a few months of the Columbia disaster, I left my husband. Maybe that’s why I react so emotionally – because my memory of these national tragedies is tied to my personal tragedy.
Last week was the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Challenger disaster and the ninth anniversary of the Columbia disaster. There’s no conclusion, no moral or closing thought. I just wanted to share these moments of my life, take a minute to remember the lives lost, listen to a great song, and cry. Thanks for indulging me.