Thursday, January 28, 2016

Check Ignition and May God's Love be With You...


Earlier this month I read Ben Lerner's novel, "10:04". In it, he talks about the shuttle disaster and brings up the speech Reagan gave addressing it. I had written a post about The Challenger Disaster on my blog however many years ago, but I can't find it. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the incident, I figured I'd just a write a new one.

"And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them."

Ronald Reagan


I was 20 years old this day in 1986. I had been working at a ski resort in Big Bear Lake, California when the snow ran out. It was too warm to ski and only the full-time, old timers could stay and get paid. My boyfriend and I had a plan (which was pretty impressive for us). His mom had gone back to college after Neal graduated from high school and was going to be studying at The Sorbonne for Spring semester. She asked him to house sit in his childhood home in the Noe/Valley area of San Francisco.

We were originally going to leave for San Francisco on Sunday, but we decided to wait and watch the Superbowl with our friends at the ski resort. I got so much grief for being from Iowa and having Ronnie Harmon throw the Rose Bowl a few weeks earlier, that I wanted to at least watch the Superbowl Shuffle Bears beat the Patriots, to get a little respect for the Midwestern sports teams from my Southern California coworkers who liked to make fun of me for being a hayseed.

Neal and I were both messes, in states of arrested development from colorful childhoods neither of us had had a chance to work through and recover from. We probably shouldn't have been dating anyone, let alone each other, but at least we both understood each other and for a couple of  years, we were both fine moving every 6 months and with letting things happen to us, instead of making actual decisions.

We finally got on the road on Monday and drove down the mountain to one of those weird, boring, Southern California, nowhere towns like San Bernadino and rented a hotel room. Compared to our crappy apartment in Big Bear, the hotel felt fancy. We did super mature things like jumping on the bed and eating pizza while watching cable TV.

We were full of hope for whatever adulthood would bring us, we were both going to be old enough to drink legally in the Summer and we thought going to a bigger city would make us feel like grown-ups in a way that living in the mountains or the Redwoods and not having bank accounts and just keeping what little money we had hidden under our beds, did not.

When we woke-up on Tuesday, we packed up our stuff and watched the Space Shuttle Challenger go off. Then we immediately headed to our car and drove across the street to a gas station. In the car we talked about how cool it was that there was a teacher on it and what an amazing experience that must be for her. We walked into the gas station to grab road food, and everyone was staring at the TV. I made a comment about how awesome it was to be able to watch it, and they all stared at me like I was an asshole.

"You think it's awesome to watch the shuttle explode?"

"What? No. It exploded? When? We watched it go off and it was fine...."

"Then you left too soon because it exploded not long after that."

I had no idea what to say to that, except, "Shit." and everyone around me nodded in agreement.

In many respects, Reagan's speech was right, I was being pulled into the future and the future was going to be painful. If I could go back those thirty years and know what was coming, I think I would have been terrified that I wouldn't be able to handle it all, but being 50 years old now, I'm even more hopeful for finding out that I could...

2 comments:

Todd said...

That was such a sad day. I just read a story from a girl that lived in Florida and watched the launch live with her second grade class. She wrote how she thought it was just beautiful and then her teacher started to cry. She had no idea why. That was one of those life events that I will never forget.

On a happier note I hope your enjoying spring! Crazy warm this morning!

Churlita said...

I know. I can't wait to ride on my road bike this weekend.