Toronto Mike

Challenger Disaster 25 Years Ago: My Memories


25 years ago today, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on its 10th flight during mission STS-51-L. I once ranked it #3 on a list of world events that affected me.  I was 11-years old, and the Challenger disaster gave me a recurring nightmare.

I was in grade five when the space shuttle Challenger exploded during launch, killing the seven on board. We were outside playing in the playground at St. Pius X primary school during lunch break when a classmate who had been home for some reason ran up to our group to share the news. I remember Peter telling me that the space shuttle had crashed and I remember replying with a "no way!".

Being eleven years old, I was well old enough to follow this event. I remember seeing the photographs in the next day's Toronto Star and watching the coverage on television. I felt horrible for the seven on board, particularly Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to fly in space. Her presence made it all the more devastating to me.

Over the next while, I remember periodically awakening in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I was having the same nightmare over and over again and it was so traumatic I recall it as if I had it again last night. In this nightmare, I'm piloting a space shuttle. I'm 100% responsible for ensuring the safety of the flight and there are dozens and dozens of people on board. There's a moment in this dream when I realize we're going to crash, everyone will die and there's absolutely nothing I can do to prevent it. That powerless sensation haunted me. It's even difficult to write about, despite the fact I haven't had this dream in about 23 years.

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