"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Friday, January 28, 2011

Christa's Day

Almost nobody, I think, needs an explanation of who Christa McAuliffe is, or what happened to her and the Challenger crew on this day 25 years ago. In New Hampshire, where she lived and taught and raised her family and earned the privilege of being the first "Teacher in Space," the Governor officially decreed it Christa McAuliffe Remembrance Day. Nearly the whole of the first section today's Concord Monitor is devoted to the tragedy. Most of the people writing about it were present. Others worked with Christa and knew her well. She was truly a local heroine...long before she climbed aboard the shuttle.

The explosion was sort of a JFK moment, only different. Because nearly every citizen in NH, every school child here and around the country, and so many others were tuned in. I was among them. I lived then Colorado but was already deeply, instensely attached to this state that is now my home--and which on that day was looking forward to welcoming Christa back from space.

As the launch time approached, I abandoned my corner desk and computer--I was writing the novel that I'm pretty sure became my first published one. I sat down in front of CNN, a habitual watcher of space launches and landings. (I still am.)

The local planetarium, named for Christa (and Alan Shephard) is having special memorial activities this evening. This is unusual--they never mark the date of the explosion, preferring to celebrate Christa on her birthday.

Also unusual, the very private McAuliffe family provided a statement on this anniversary of their unimaginable and all too public loss.

It's still a loss, and I'm feeling it keenly. I can only quote an individual, speaking on the hour-long radio program about the Challenger launch and the pain still felt locally.

"Twenty-five years later, the tears are coming back for me."

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