I’ll never forget the year the challenger fell. I was in the 6th grade. Everyone was talking about the teacher who was going to the moon. And our classrooms tuned in that day, to watch history in the making.
Of course we weren’t at all prepared for what we saw. 10-9-8-7 clouds of smoke started to bellow at the base of the rockets. 6-5-4-3 anticipation was building. We’d seen space shuttles before. It wasn’t amazing that we were sending someone to the moon. 2-1-blastoff. It was amazing that we were sending someone “normal” to the moon.
She wasn’t an astronaut. She was a teacher. With students our age. One minute and thirteen seconds later, tears flooded my eyes.
For weeks, people hurried home to see what develops played out on the evening news. And strangely, I was given a cherished memory throughout the ordeal.
My step-dad was a very complicated man. Even now, I can’t quite make sense of all the things he did or said. But I know this to be a fact. He was one of the smartest people I ever knew. Every day he read the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post from start to finish. I still remember his irritated rant when the Houston Post closed it’s doors in 1995, selling the last of their assets to the Chronicle. I think he wished it had been the other way around. Either way, he believed in being well-informed.
But back when the Challenger exploded, every day he read each article, and then relayed the latest developments to me. Apparently there were O-rings that failed and a fuel tank exploded, and well, we know the rest. Seven incredible people perished.
Yet, I was given a gift. After reading each article, he carefully clipped them from the newspaper. Together, we assembled a scrapbook of sorts. Every photo, every article, all preserved neatly on plastic-covered pages.
He brought home an extra presentation folder and we put our pages together in a very detailed assembly of current events. Then, I illustrated the cover with a drawing of the shuttle surrounded by clouds of smoke.
I was so proud of the work we’d done. He told me to hang on to it, and that someday it would be an important recollection of events. I’m a bit of a pack-rat, so I had every intention of keeping it forever.
Then a year later, I told my science teacher all about it. The news was talking about the one-year-anniversary of the tragic events. She asked me to bring it to school and share with the class. She even offered me extra credit, and for a nerd like me, those were the magic words.
I’ll never forget that day. I took my folder to school, so proud of the project we’d done together. And my teacher was impressed. So impressed, she asked to keep it for a day and share it with all her classes.
I remember feeling uneasy, but I handed it to her anyway. The next day, she swore I must’ve picked it up. Of course, I hadn’t. My dad decided she just wanted it for her own collection. And at the time, none of us knew Google was in our future.
I had no idea that someday I’d keep a phone in my pocket, and that I could ask it to show me pictures or pull up those same articles. But it’s not the same. I can’t smell the ink of the newspaper. I can’t look at the pages yellowed by the years or admire his perfect block lettering. However, I can remember those days and the meticulous way in which he created a memory with me.
It’s strange for something so mundane to be a treasured moment of the past. Today, I was reminded of that, and I just hope my folder saw many classrooms before the Age of Google ascended upon us.