Archive - Jan 28, 2011

Remembering the Challenger

It seems hard to believe it was twenty-five years ago. I was working at 360 Hamilton Ave, White Plains, NY as an external consultant on IBM’s Advanced Accounting System. If I recall properly, my officemate’s wife was a junior high school teacher, and we were all very excited about the shuttle taking off. However, Steve was a bit of a practical joker.

So, shortly after the shuttle was scheduled to lift off, he received a phone call. It was his wife calling. I don’t remember overhearing the discussion, but after he hung up, he turned to me and said in a complete deadpan voice, “The shuttle exploded”, or something like that.

It was so deadpan, so unexpected, I thought he was joking, but it quickly became clear that he wasn’t. Back then, IBM had an internal network called VNET. I had already connected with IBM employees from around the world on this very early precursor to social networking. VNET had a connection to BITNET, and from BITNET you could get out to ARPA and Usenet, although it was pretty restricted.

One of IBM’s big locations at the time was in Boca Raton, which is a couple hundred miles south of Cape Canaveral, and I remember the emails flying in from Boca Raton about the explosion. There were a lot of people at IBM that were deeply emotionally invested in the space program.

I remember reading the emails, being in shock, sharing thoughts with Steve. In many ways, it was my first experience of a major news event through information I was receiving online.

Later, I listened to President Reagan’s speech. I was not a fan of President Reagan, yet on this day, his simple but elegant speech summed it up better than I could ever have imagined.

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....
The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."

So, this evening, I watched a clip of CNN’s broadcast of the Challenger explosion and a clip of President Reagan delivering his speech. Kim and I talked about the event with Fiona.

(Categories: )