This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Challenger: 25 Years On

Last week (Friday, 28th January), marked 25 years since the Challenger shuttle disaster shook the world in 1986. I was six years old at the time. I had just started grade two. At the mission school I attended, we had a weekly music and news session. Our Head Master, would give us a summary of the news as heard on the wireless or BBC World Service (where would some of us be without this amazing source of information?).

In my years at Sakeji School, three news events stuck in my young mind. One was the series of seminal events in 1989 that I mention in one of my earliest posts on this blog. These included the Exxon Valdese, the Berlin Wall and the Tienanmen Square Massacre. Another story was from 1987 or 1988 (I can't remember when), and this was the first announcement that Britain and France were going to build a huge tunnel under the sea to connect the two countries. The Channel Tunnel would be opened many years later, but it was this first wondrous announcement that I remember to this day.

However, it was the Challenger disaster that stuck in my mind the most. What was most fascinating and devastating about this story is that it captured the attention of every school-going child, teacher and school in the world. As noted in the BBC article, NASA had embarked on a space education programme and the search for a school teacher to go into space was reported all over the world. We heard it at Sakeji School in Ikelenge in Mwinilunga District in the Northwestern-most tip of Zambia in 1985. I was in grade one. We eagerly awaited the adventure and we all wished we went to that lucky school where the teacher would come back and tell us all how it was like to be in outer space.

Then, it went horribly wrong. The task fell to Mr Foster to gently tell us all that a really bad thing happened and the teacher and everyone in the spaceship died in a terrible accident.  I have not forgotten that day and I probably never will. Sometimes I wonder if that is when the desire to report the news first came to me.

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