Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thirty Years

Thirty-one years ago ~ I know, but I'm giving you the back-story, so hang in there with me for a paragraph or two ~ thirty-one years ago I was student teaching in Bristol, Tennessee.  I was assigned to a third grade classroom with a delightful master-teacher.  Mrs. Burke was the kind of woman every one wished they could be assigned to.  There was another teacher in the school, a young man who was fascinated with space.  He desperately wanted to explore and when the Teachers In Space program was initiated he began the application process.  He made it all the way to the final selection for the state of Tennessee before being eliminated.  I learned a lot about the Space Shuttle program that year, just from sitting quietly grading papers and listening to him talk to the other teachers. 

After graduation I landed a job in Gainseville, Georgia.  It was a small church-school with atrocious pay.  I was hired to teach the 6th and 7th combined classroom.  I was teaching 11 subjects a day (we combined the Bible class).  The second semester we had someone who came in and taught PE and another volunteer who handled music, so that I would have some time to catch my breath. 

On January 28th I wanted my students to be able to watch the Challenger launch.  Like many other class-rooms around the country, we had been talking about space a lot leading up to this historic launch.  We were all excited about it.  Then I got the word that the PE teacher had to have that time slot for PE that day.  There was no getting around it.  We were disappointed, but since the only television available was a very, very small portable unit in the church secretary's office, and since I was sure that the news channels would be re-running the launch that evening, I assigned the kids to watch the news that night and go on to PE during that hour.

I walked over to the church office and stuck my head into the secretary's office.  She invited me to come on in and watch the launch with her and the pastor.  We huddled around that tiny little television just in time to catch the final minute or two of the countdown.  And the blast-off.  And the rockets going in two different directions. 

Wait a minute, was it supposed to look like that??

Photo from CBS news

No.   No it was not.  

Word about the disaster spread quickly through the school.  I thought the PE teacher was going to hit the floor when she heard the news.  My students were understandably shaken up, distressed, disbelieving.  There were a few tears from some of the young ladies.  But these kids knew what their responsibility was in the face of this disaster.  So we bowed our heads together and began to pray. 

Several years later we took a family vacation to Ft. Lauderdale, FL to visit my sister and her family.  On the way home we stopped at Kennedy Space Center where Junior and I went and saw the Challenger Memorial.  I shared with him my memories of the day.  He slipped his little hand into mine and stood there with me as we looked at the names. 

Photo from NASA

They are remembered today.  

May the peace of God ~ not of man but of God Himself ~ shelter their families as they work through yet another anniversary of the tragedy.  May those who have rejected Him be drawn to His love and grace.  May those who know Him be drawn even closer to His comfort and peace.

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