Day of Remembrance Part 1 – Challenger

challenger_crewThe following is a re-post from January 28, 2011 and the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Disaster….

It’s a beautiful, January-winters day in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Yesterday’s mix of rain and snow has left us with a wonderful coating of heavy whiteness –you know, the kind that sticks to everything and makes good snowmen!

I love working in the outdoors, always have. Whether it’s in the spring, summer, autumn, or winter, using my hands and getting close to nature affords me the special time to dream,  think, and de-clutter my mind. This morning as I wondered outdoors to remove the icy accumulated precipitation from our driveway, I found myself entertaining a strange sense of déjà vu – looking to the sky and wondering back to an oddly similar day 25 years ago.

It was some of the greatest news a young boy could receive – no school!  A winter blast had left our small hometown buried in a heap of snow and there was no time to waste! I bundled up – well, as bundled as teenage boys like to get, and hurried out to do my part in clearing up the neighborhood and securing my piggybank to pay for more flying lessons, all while my mother yelled at me to cover my ears. Ears? Who needs ears? Did you hear something? Ah, wintertime…it was grand!

Now my parents and I had an unspoken deal; if I shoveled out the walks and parking spaces first, I was then permitted to make a few extra bucks by offering my services to the neighborhood. I had done this for years, and today was no different. My customers were expecting me, and neither snow nor freezing rain would keep me from my appointed routes! I started at our front door and quickly worked my way out to the street. It was a heavy, wet snow. I remember stopping to catch my breath and listening to the silence of this gorgeous morning. The sun was peeking through the intermittent clouds of what was left of the storm, and my eyes squinted in an attempt to look at the sky. It was an awesome sight, but as much as I loved it, today my heart and head were in a relatively warmer, tropical paradise on the shorelines of mid-Florida.

Today was the BIG day! NASA was launching a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, and her astronaut colleagues into space aboard the Shuttle Challenger. Having no school, combined with the fact that I was a spaceflight enthusiast and astronaut-wannabe, made the deal even sweeter. It didn’t matter how heavy that snow was, I was on course to set a record so I could get back inside to catch the liftoff.

I promptly and thoroughly cleaned our portion of Penn Street, and headed back inside. The warmth of our home clashed with the coldness of my weather-beaten face and ears setting them on fire, but I didn’t dare complain. I’d just get a look and an “I told you so”, so what was the point in being wrong and heaping a sack of self-humiliation on my day?  It was better to make a cup of hot chocolate, appear to be right, and head to my room to lick my wounds in private.

Since there was no cable television or streaming live internet video to watch at the time, I settled for my shortwave radio and listened in on the pre-launch activities. I took a sip of hot chocolate from my warm mug, put my warm hands over my ears and then pulled out the mission packet I had received from NASA. I had the opportunity to see some of the crew prior to this mission and I had watched all the news interviews, read all the papers and national magazines that were covering this important flight. Now here I was, fact sheets, photos, and radio – imagining myself onboard or at least in launch control waiting for ignition. Launch time finally arrived and Challenger headed for space – all throttles up.

Much has happened and my life has taken its own course since that cold, January morning. I’ve not flown into space, and chances are that may not happen in this lifetime. But other adventures and doors of opportunity have presented themselves. I still have my ears, and I’ve learned the value of listening. I still shovel snow, and I’ve learned the value of hard work and the pursuit of excellence. I still dream, and I’ve learned the value of adventure, courage, and persistence. I still look skyward, and continue to learn the daily lessons of faith, hope, and love. I look at their photos today, and I know the value of remembering.

Thanks for the inspiration Dick, Mike, Judy, Ellison, Ron, Greg, and Christa. I’ll always carry a bit of you with me!

©Copyright 2011 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

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