30 years ago this morning, I was living in the rented basement of my friend, Tim Bergmann, sleeping soundly and dreaming of something awful….at least to me. I had a very vivid dream of waking up to find my precious 1965 Mustang vandalized, left with graffiti and a flat tire. When I awoke, I was absolutely positive that it had actually happened…that I had a prescient dream, and I was just terrified it were true. I didn’t go upstairs. I didn’t want to know.
Instead, I got out of bed, took a shower, and as I stepped out to dry off, my friend’s amazing mother, Nelda, told me that something awful had just happened. She told me to come upstairs quickly.
My prescient nightmare was happening….I knew my car was destroyed. I knew it.
As I cleared the steps, I turned left into the kitchen to see Nelda seated at the dinner table, watching the TV that rested on top of her refrigerator and softly crying. On it were images that I couldn’t quite comprehend.
Newscasters racing around to get the latest updates.
30 years ago this morning, Challenger, our NASA space shuttle, collapsed into a fireball and destroyed the lives of 7 astronauts as well as the young minds of thousands of school children who’d been given the privilege to watch it live on TV. It was an amazing, humbling, and terrifying thing, and it clearly affected the lives of many for years.
Having the news video repeated over and over didn’t help, something we’d all encounter again in 2001 with the Twin Towers. It was a heavy experience and one that I carried with me for the remainder of the day and into the remainder of the week. I recall going to work that evening, and noting that we had very little business traffic that day.
People simply gave up.
I remember a waitress crying in the corner. It was sobering and even a little overwhelming. The pall was tremendous and admittedly too much for me to grasp at 19. I wasn’t really understanding of what a national tragedy this was.
The edges of that tragedy never really softened. They wore a bit with age, but we were reminded again of the fragility of the human body, when in the early 2000’s, another shuttle disintegrated re-entering the atmosphere. After that, NASA seemed to give up. Too much risk and too costly (on so many fronts) they said….
Today, I’m reminded I am 30 years older, and I don’t know how it’s possible. I don’t know how we all got here. I don’t know where the time went. ….how it sped up. How my youth left me far behind.
Yet, I have realized that we survived all the craziness. We are here. Being here is ok. It is good.
If anything, that tragedy 30 years ago should serve to remind us about the best parts of the human experience….
That we are adventurous.
That we risk to learn.
That we live with joy, even in the midst of tragedy.
That we have hope.
That it is more than enough.