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EXIT OF THE DAY: I-95n EXIT 202 to Cape Canaveral & Kennedy Space Center, Florida:
America’s never ending experiment is marked by bold accomplishments and too often, great set backs. A characteristic of the American personality is that it does not quit and seeks to go ever forward or in some cases, ever upward.
On the afternoon of January 28, 1986, President Ronald Reagan announced he would postpone his planned State of the Union Address to the nation. A disaster down here at Cape Canaveral had thrown the country into mourning.
Earlier that day, full of hope and promise, the Space Shuttle Challenger had left the launch pad only to explode in full sight of tens of thousands of viewers.
Along with 6 astronauts, the disaster killed the very first civilian to go into space. She was a school teacher, Christa McAuliffe from Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire.
The idea of including a school teacher had been President Reagan’s idea. So when the disaster happened it shook the Commander-in-Chief to his core.
Obviously there was another group of personal stakeholders who were even more bewildered. These were the proud members of The Concord High School community. According to Paul Butaria of Fox News, few across the nation ever heard about about a special prayer that was offered inside McAuliffe’s public school – a prayer that helped provide hope to a grieving faculty. Writes Butaria:
“With millions of teachers and schoolchildren watching all across the globe, the Challenger disintegrated into a ball of fire and smoke. Gathered with students inside Concord High School’s library to watch the launch, people recall how fast the festive and highly anticipated morning suddenly turned dark and chaotic.
Dennis McAfee was one of Christa’s colleagues at New Hampshire’s Concord High. The auto mechanics teacher recalls it as if it were yesterday: “Shortly after the explosion, Reporters were crawling all over. Classes were cancelled. Some of the kids talked to the press, but most were just too upset.”
With students gone, Concord’s principal Charles Foley convened the faculty to discuss the way forward.
At the conclusion, with many on staff still dazed and overwhelmed by what they had all just witnessed, an arm went up in the crowd. It was the hand of Nick Houston, a building and trade teacher.
“I know everybody processes grief differently,” he said. “But the only way I know how to do it is to pray. So, this is only voluntary, but I would like us to pray for the families and for everyone who is hurting.”
Every head bowed. A hush fell over the assembled as Nick proceeded to pray a simple but sincere prayer.
It was a sacred moment, a unifying action that pulled everyone together in their grief and sent them out into the cold New Hampshire afternoon with a spirit of quiet hope after a tragic morning.
Later that day The Commander-in-Chief did his job well by becoming the nation’s Griever-in -Chief. President Reagan also spoke about the disaster and made the nation feel better — if only a little — by putting it in the context of human endeavor and heavenly promise.
Said Ronald Reagan:
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”
Indeed, America grieved. Then, after some time, America went back to work. Several months later, they sent another Shuttle into space. And then another. And another. After all, it was only right to keep exploring…and it would have been exactly what Christa McAuliffe would have wanted.
#ChristaMcAuliffe #Challenger #SpaceShuttle #ConcordHighSchool
#ConcordNewHampshire #tragedy #RonaldReagan #CapeCanaveral #CapeKennedy