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Jason Holliston
Tuesday, June 08, 2004  
Thoughts From The Eighties

Before 9/11, my generation's Kennedy Moment was the Challenger explosion. You can ask almost anyone in my generation, "Where were you when you heard the Challenger had exploded?", and you'll get answer. I was in art class during my freshman year in high school, listening to the news over the radio. We remember it like it was yesterday. It struck us in our youth as something real and something tragic, so unlike what the Eighties were all about.

How fitting that, while listening to AM radio on the way home from work yesterday, I heard a audio "look back" on Ronald Reagan. They played part of his speech he gave the night of the Challenger explosion, and I felt goosebumps and tears filled my eyes, just like that night over 18 years ago. The full transcript of the speech is pasted below. He was known as the Great Communicator for a reason: primarily he spoke not to your head, but to your heart.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they,the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy.' They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them...

There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'

12:50 PM 1 comments

This made me as teary-eyed now as when I first heard it as a Sophmore in high school. I was waiting out in the hallway to start English class, and the door was locked. It was very odd. When our teacher finally came (about 8 minutes late), she had obviously been crying. My heart dropped to my feet when she announced the accident. We filed into the main area and watched it on television. We cried.
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