January 28, 1986
I stopped by my Grannie Ruby’s house that morning.
The house was hot. Now I don’t remember that, precisely. But I know it was, because it always was. She had a gas space heater in the living room, not far from her chair. She was fairly frugal, so natural gas must have been cheap. She used a lot of gas.
Seldom did I make it up to north Austin without stopping by. She watched The Price is Right or was it Lets Make a Deal. Those shows were always interchangeable in my mind. It’s possible she watched them both.
She didn’t set idly watching TV. She busied herself with something, in her hands. But she did have the volume turned up, almost to the point that it was hard to visit unless I set on the couch close to her.
Most of the time had a pot of stew or something cooking in the kitchen. Being a small house, the kitchen was real close by. You enjoyed the smells of her cooking as you visited. Her stew was very flavorful. It was seasoned too hot and spicy for many, but it fit my palate just right, especially with cornbread.
At 10:30 plus a few minutes the regular TV programming was preempted. It was a very special morning. We watched as the countdown for the Challenger launch happening. It was something special. A school teacher was going up. Christa McAuliffe was going into space.
Then it happened, shortly after takeoff. The explosion with the smoke cloud shooting off in different directions. We both were shocked, just as everyone else in the country was. We weren’t sure if what we were seeing was suppose to be that way or was it a mistake? Was it a disaster?
We, like most of the world thought there must be safeguards in place that would allow the crew to live.
At some point we knew there was no way anyone survived. I don’t remember us saying much to each other. Which was rare. Grannie Ruby liked to talk and I didn’t mind saying a few words either. Just not this day.
We watched and finally she mostly likely got up to make the cornbread. I don’t know for sure if we ate stew and cornbread that day, but it’s likely we did. It seems that we always did in the winter time.
I stayed much longer that day than normal. We kept watching and hoping for a miracle. A miracle never happened. Life slowed down that day. There was no place that I needed to be. Nothing that couldn’t wait.
At some point I had to leave and head home. I just couldn’t believe that the space program could ever carry on. But it did. I really wish more could be happening now. Perhaps one day the excitement will be back. It was such a source of national pride.
Good Morning America broadcast on the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, we remember the 7 crew members killed. We take a look back at Peter Jennings reporting on the explosion on January 28, 1986.