“What Just Happened?”

“What just happened? What in the world just happened?”

Kids, believe it, back in the mid-80’s in January in middle Tennessee, it used to snow. A lot. We would have so much snow that we did not end up graduating until June. It was not uncommon and, we loved it.

On January 26th, 1986, on Super Bowl Sunday, it snowed a lot which closed schools the rest of the week. Fine by me, I said. We all had just watched the Chicago Bears destroy the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and everyone was talking about “The Fridge” scoring a TD for the Bears.

It was all anyone was talking about and were going to talk about for awhile. The Bears had become a national obsession with a cast of characters that everyone knew and most of us tried to emulate on the field that past fall.

Until two days later, when the world changed.  Forever.

That Tuesday morning, it had snowed some more and we remained out of school which allowed all of us to sleep in that day.  We were meeting up to go sledding later on but first, food.

“Oh yes, the shuttle with that teacher is taking off this morning, I almost forgot.”  And I almost did as I got on the phone with a friend to confirm what time we were meeting, (remember-no cell phones back then), and so I turned on the TV to see the shuttle Challenger lift-off from the base.

And then, it happened.  The shuttle exploded in front of us, on T.V.
“Joe, did you see that?  Did you see that?  Joe?”
“What just happened?  What in the world just happened?”

Barely over a minute into the launch, it exploded.  In front of us.  On T.V.
The teacher, Christa Mcauliffe, with her parents watching from the Cape, was on board and it was a big deal and a big story at the time.  She was chosen over tens of thousands of teachers to be on that shuttle journey into space.

“What just happened?  What in the world just happened?”

This was my generation’s moment of innocence lost, as with JFK’s assassination with my mother’s generation.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to get a private tour of the White House from a dear friend.  We got to see the Oval Office and the first thing that came to my mind, the very first thing as I looked at the desk where so many Presidents sat and did their work, is that was the spot where President Reagan addressed a grieving nation that very night.  The speech, was one of the greatest ones that was ever given by a President that we all wish we never heard.

Find it on YouTube and watch it if you have never seen it or forgotten about it.  You will not regret it. Especially the last :30 seconds.

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