About this iReport
  • Approved for CNN

  • Click to view kstuart's profile
    Posted September 20, 2010 by
    Orlando, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    CNN30: Challenger Explosion

    View from the playground


    Growing up in Central Florida, I have been fortunate enough to watch numerous shuttle launches. I never really thought about how lucky I was to experience see these launches and hear the sonic booms as the shuttle re-enters the earth's atmosphere first hand. It wasn't until I moved to Tallahassee and later went off to Boston University that I realized I always took this for granted. We never made the trip to the coast, but we could always walk out our front door after it launched to watch the shuttle and its trail of smoke disappear among the clouds. It seemed as if everyone would stop what they were doing to observe its voyage to space.


    I will never forget when the space shuttle Challenger blew up. Bill Nelson is right. "It was one of those defining moments in your life that you will always remember." I remember it like it was yesterday. I was seven at the time and in Mrs. McLaughlin's 2nd grade class at Blankner Elementary in Orlando, FL. Protocol was that if the shuttle took off during school hours, we would stay in our classroom and watch the television coverage until we knew the launch was going to happen; then the entire school would filter out of class onto the playground and the P.E. fields. All of shuttle launches were special, but the launch on this particular day was even more special. There was a buzz surrounding its take-off. It was the first time a teacher would by flying into space.


    This launch day was the same as any other day. We watched the astronauts board the shuttle, then watched the prepartion on the launch pad as the anticipation built. Just before the shuttle took off Mrs. McLaughlin led our class to the playground. Also on the playground that day was my sister's 5th grade class accompanied by Mrs. Davis. As we all anxiously awaited the launch we turned our heads to the sky. The Challenger took off from Kennedy Space Center, which is about an hour drive from Orlando, at 11:38 a.m.


    As the Challenger took off lots of thoughts ran through my mind. (How long before we can see the trail of smoke? Where were the rocket boosters going to break off? Which direction would it by flying? Luckily there were no clouds in the sky so we would be able to spot it easily.) Just after we all turned our attention to the clouds, Mrs. Davis turned to Mrs. McLaughlin and said something like "I don't have a good feeling about this mission."


    Shortly after that the Challenger blew up. Only 73 seconds after liftoff we were standing on the playground watching its debris fall from the sky. Mrs. Davis was right. Something wasn't right.


    That is the first national tragedy that I vividly remember.

    Add your Story Add your Story