I was sitting in my math class. I don’t think I was working, I believe I was looking out the window. My school was an alternative school, we worked at our own pace on “contracts” for our credits, so the teachers didn’t hover a lot, they were just there incase you asked for help. The only classes that really worked more like a typical school were the hands on classes like science and art.
The science class down the hall was lucky that day, they were all watching a live newscast.
The door to the hall was open, that was typical. Suddenly we heard someone yelling something, then again, and again, as they got closer I was able to understand what they were saying, “It blew up!”
Kids got out of their desks and headed for the door, looking out in the hall, our teacher followed, telling us to sit down. A kid from the science class was going door to door to every classroom, “It blew up! The space shuttle. It blew up!”
Soon, the majority of our small continuation High School was attempting to crowd into the science class to see for themselves. Eventually the teachers succeeded in herding us all back to where we belonged and we continued the day. I remember feeling irritated that I couldn’t watch the news and find out what happened. This launch was special, a school teacher was on board.
Years earlier, in fifth grade I had taken part in a national campaign to nominate teachers for this mission, I had nominated my teacher Mr. Jensen. He wasn’t chosen, but I still vividly remembered him speaking about how much he would like to be chosen, and asking all of us kids to nominate him.
When I got home that day the newscast was playing again and again. The saddest part was seeing the spectators, many of them family members of those on board, as they watched the launch. I watched as their faces turned from happy excitement, to confusion, and then to absolute horror.
After seeing it for the probably the 15th time, I stopped watching. You’d think the tragedy of the situation would wear off after seeing it so much, but 29 years later, I still can’t talk about it without starting to cry. I know, because I tried to tell my son about it this morning.
One thing that played in mind over and over, was it could have been Mr. Jensen. Of all the teachers I had in school, there were only a small handful I really liked. One was my kindergarten teacher, the other was Mr. Jensen, the others were my journalism teacher in High school, and a teacher from my junior high. I don’t even remember the names of the others, but I do remember Mr. Jensen’s name, probably because I wrote an essay nominating him for the shuttle mission.
This article is dedicated to the memories of the following people:
- Francis R. Scobee
- Michael J. Smith
- Ronald McNair
- Ellison Onizuka
- Judith Resnik
- Greg Jarvis
- Christa McAuliffe