I am spending a lot of time at home now, probably more than I ever have since I was a stay-at-home mom with two small children. When I am busy and away from home a lot, it’s always something I look forward to. “Oh just to have a few days at home, with nothing to do, nowhere to go,” I think to myself as I am racing out the door to a meeting or to a day at work.

Well, like most things, it sounds better than it actually is.

Since the newspaper office closed in Danielsville and the pandemic has moved some meetings to online, that has already put me at home more; add recovery from knee surgery to that which put me on leave from a second job and isolation has become a way of life lately.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an introvert and being home with my hubby or by myself with just our pets is a nice thing. It’s just that too much of anything is well, too much.

I am always going to do all these great things – like write more, clean out my closets, paint, spend more time reading the classics, etc. etc. etc.

This usually devolves into sitting, reading and napping. Oh and channel surfing, the worst possible home activity.

But while doing just that I did stumble across a gem the other day. Netflix dropped a new show on the events surrounding the Challenger shuttle disaster in 1986.

As soon as I started watching it, I remembered right where I was the morning it happened. Like 9/11, it was on a Tuesday morning. Cold and crisp, here and unfortunately in Florida, I was working in the kitchen and the windows were fogged up in our little doublewide mobile home. My 4-month old son was in his highchair and my 3-year old was busy playing with her toys. I had meant to watch the launch that morning, but it had slipped my mind. The shuttle lift offs had become almost routine, and this one, like so many of them, had already been put off a couple of days.

I was talking to my friend Linda, also at home with a baby, when she mentioned she’d heard something about the Challenger blowing up. I quickly switched on the TV and from that moment on nothing much got done for the rest of that day.

It was horrifying and it all played out on live TV. I remember thinking what it would be like to one of those school kids watching this exciting-turned-nightmare event unfold. Interest in this particular flight had been higher than ever due to the schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe, on board.

It still makes me shiver. And those poor family members.

It was a collective tragedy, like 9/11, that we all felt. We waited with baited breath to hear the painstakingly slow details come out. Over time, we also learned something of the cover up of the events of that morning and the saga of the “O rings.” It didn’t have to go the way it did.

That was Jan. 1986. It was years ago and for me personally it is a world away from how I feel about life in general in the United States these days. I really realized how true that was when watching the series and they interviewed Robert L. Crippin, the co-pilot of the first shuttle flight of all, the Columbia in 1981, which of course, met its own disastrous fate in 2003 when the orbiter disintegrated on re-entry to the earth’s orbit.

But in this clip, you hear Crippin describing what it was like to view the earth from Columbia’s windows on re-entry from space – to see the clouds, the mountains, the oceans and finally the dessert landing strip come into view, along with all the thousands of folks who had gathered to see the first spaceship land like an airplane.

Set to the backdrop of Neil Diamond’s “We’re Coming to America,” it made me have unexpected chills from head to toe. I choked back tears as I watched it touch down, flanked by fighter jets, the United States proudly emblazoned across its side.

My chest filled with pride. That was my country – America – we were world leaders – we didn’t get everything right and we had many faults — but the world looked up to us. We had dignity and respect. We had the feeling we could do just about anything. We had leaders who could uplift and inspire us.

I watched just that segment several times over, just to get that feeling.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had it.

Margie Richards is a reporter for The Madison County Journal. She can be reached at margie@mainstreetnews.com.

(1) comment

Virginia Moss

I was in surgery at the moment of the explosion (emergency appendectomy) after going to the emergency room at midnight. Two days later upon walking a bit down the hospital hall I saw the flag outside at half-staff. I asked the other patients why and they looked at me like I had come out from under a rock as they related the news. No one had told me, I guess to not upset me and hinder my healing.

Later I learned that the whole thing could have been avoided had the engineers and scientists been listened to. It was Reagan's fault and the fault of those around him impatient to have a glory moment on television. The people managing the launch knew of the o-ring problem and tried and tried and tried to warn, but were muzzled in favor of pleasing the president, Reagan, and his Republican Party. Sound familiar? One among those brilliant and dedicated workers felt personally responsible for the explosion for his failure to get through to the powers that be. Near the end of his life he went public to say how the guilt ate at him the rest of his life and to warn, again, to listen to the ones who know what's right. Fair warning, still being unheeded today.

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