Every year on January 28 since 1986, when I see the news broadcasts which replay the Challenger explosion, I think back to where I was when it happened--where I was both physically and emotionally. This has been especially significant to me, over 25 years later, having contact via Facebook with the kindergartener, Nathan Connell, who held my hand that fateful day.
It was Tuesday, January 28, 1986, at 11:38 a.m. This was my first day back at school as a teacher of elementary-age children in the gifted education program since having a miscarriage at 10 weeks gestation one week before.
I took the hand of Nathan Connell, a bright-eyed, brown-haired kindergartener who was wise beyond his years. I was wearing my London Fog trench coat with the lining zipped in on this unusually cold Florida morning. We joined the 45 other students and two other teachers out on the lawn of the school and we all were looking up. The sky was a brilliant cerulean blue. We watched Challenger rise into the sky, the bright orange glow of its rockets and white plume of smoke below the orange glow.
Suddenly, as Nathan and I held hands and watched, the orange glow exploded and the white plumes of smoke were diverging vertically from above the orange glow. It was unlike any shuttle launch we had seen before, was it a second stage rocket booster? I looked down at Nathan’s knowing expression with his eyes glued to the Challenger and he said, “I hope the astronauts had parachutes.” We were outside, we had no TV or radio announcer to provide commentary. But Nathan knew. The glorious beginning had ended.
I wrote in my journal that evening, “I feel empty…beginnings ended…nerve endings of emotion…raw, open, exposed…longings of my heart…reaching out, vulnerable…soft to the touch…aching need, grieving for what is lost, for what could have been…”
Dear Beth, You cannot imagine how overcome with emotion I was to read that blog post. I remember that day and I remember it with such clarity. I'm now a physician in Rhode Island, having just finished my internal medicine residency. This summer, I'm starting a fellowship in hematology and oncology so I'll be working in the cancer center here at Brown University's teaching hospitals. Thank you so much for reaching out and thank you for everything you did for me that day and during my time as your student. Keep in touch.—Nathan (Comment via Facebook from Nathan Connell)
Nathan, Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean so much to me...there are those moments in our lives that we do remember with such clarity, probably because of the emotions involved...every year on January 28 when the news programs replay the video of Challenger and ask "Where were you..." I go right back there to Lake Wales, holding your sweet little hand...this year I felt led to write about it on my blog...with your permission, I would like to add your comments above to my blog...you have made wonderfully wise choices with your life, and I know you will be a blessing to the hematology and oncology patients at the cancer center...our lives are so short, no matter how many years we live...blessings, beth (my response via Facebook to Nathan Connell)
Of course, please feel free to use my comments however you wish and again, thank you for everything you've done for me!--Nathan (response via Facebook from Nathan)
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.—I Corinthians 13:12
No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.—Romans 8:36-39 TLB