We were sitting in an airport when it happened...
by Charlie Leck
Anne and I were sitting in a coffee shop at the airport in Columbia, South Carolina, on a morning exactly 25 years ago today. We were waiting to board our flight to Minneapolis. We both had sections of a newspaper in our hands and hot cups of coffee at the ready. Over our heads somewhere a television was making sounds in which we had no interest.
Suddenly – and I’ll never forget either the feeling or the moment – a strange sense of urgency and horror came out of the noisy TV and we both had to look up.
The space shuttle, Challenger, had blow up in the sky, very shortly after its launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The TV announcer seemed confused and he spoke of fuel tanks that appeared to have broken away from the craft and then exploded. You could hear confusion and uncertainty in his voice, but he didn’t want to misspeak and lapse incorrectly into the sensational. Yet, all of us, staring at the TV in the waiting area of that airport in Columbia, knew exactly what had happened. It was as if someone had plunged a dagger in our spirits.
There had been days of wonderful reports about the first civilian – a school teacher named Christa McAauliffe -- going into space with the astronauts aboard Challenger.
In an instant, our nation was thrown into mourning and grief. I’ll never forget the day or the feel of despair and hopelessness. It’s one of those moments that get engraved deeply on our united minds.