Today is NASA National Remembrance Day. We celebrate the lives of all the men and women who died for the sake of space exploration. It was 29 years ago today the Challenger space shuttle exploded, killing six astronauts and a high school teacher aboard the flight.
Approximately 17% of the country watched the shuttle launch live on television that day. I was one of them. Our third grade class got to see the launch, as part of our space unit. Mrs. Slater bounced with anticipation and excitement as we crowded our chairs together in front of the television wheeled to the front of the classroom.
I cringe at the memory of Mrs. Slater’s tears streaming down her face as we watched the shuttle explode. Teachers didn't cry. Teachers didn't die. My eight-year-old self vowed that day to never go to space. It was too dangerous.
Today I am a teacher and parent. I live for “aha moments” and mind explosions in the classroom. I take my six-year-old daughter on Internet field trips to space and conduct science experiments with her at home. Together we celebrate the joy and wonder of man’s quest for new knowledge.
President Ronald Reagan gave one of the best speeches of his career on the day the Challenger exploded. He was supposed to give a State of the Union Address that evening. Instead he addressed the families of the NASA tragedy and the nation’s school children:
Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, "Give me a challenge, and I'll meet it with joy." They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.
Today let’s celebrate those men and women. Let’s take the time to share our curiosity and passion for learning with our kids. Take an Internet Field Trip through space in the Today Box archives. Play in the cockpit of a real space shuttle. Discover the red surface of Mars.
When the kids go to bed, enjoy Reagan’s speech. It’s a beauty.
Each new experience and tradition we shared with one another went off without a hitch. In fact, we soon learned our differences as a Jewish man and a Irish Catholic woman actually helped to bring us closer.