What History Shows Us

A boy named Russell Wade watches the Challenger Disaster on TV and ponders his own future.

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January 28, 1986.

It would be a day I would always remember. Not because of anything I did that was significant, but because that was the day the space shuttle Challenger blew up.

So, where was I when the space shuttle Challenger blew up?

Before I answer that question, I will say this: The year was 1986, and I had just moved from the city of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to Miami, Florida to live with my aunt, Lily Wells. I was 14 years old, and I was sent to stay with Aunt Lily because my parents weren't allowed to raise me for some odd reason. (I don't call having Asperger's odd.) But you don't want to know how I ended up staying with my aunt, right.

But let's go back to that day.

On that day the Challenger blew up, I was sitting in the back of the class, not interested in the presentation on TV. My teachers and fellow classmates were glued to the TV, as if they were about to watch the biggest thing since "Thriller" on MTV. I myself stared at the TV, wondering what was the big deal with the spaceship launch. Didn't people have better things to worry about, such as poverty, child abuse, and homelessness?

Or in my case, the fact that I won't be returning to my parents until I was 21 years old?

I began to wonder about my own future as I watched the launch begin. I was into fantasy and science fiction, and I would rather spend hours playing "Dungeons & Dragons" than hang out at the local arcade. The other kids thought I was weird as I spend hours wrapped up in a fantasy world.

Suddenly, I felt a poke in my back. I turned around and faced Willie Samuels. He said, "Russell, you're spacing out again."

"Oh, was I?" I said.

"You keep forgetting that the world exists," said Jeanette Royster as she turned in my direction. "You keep spacing out and stuff. That's why you not living with your parents."

"That's none of your business, Jeanette!" Willie snapped at her. "Leave Russell alone, will you?"

Jeanette was about to respond when Wendy Grijalva said, "You gotta see this!"

Of course, "this" was the space shuttle Challenger lifting off from the JFK Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Everyone stopped talking as they stared at the TV. I continued to stare at the TV, with disinterest in everything that was happening.

Then something happened to make me pay attention, if only for a second. I, along with my entire class, watched as the space shuttle suddenly broke apart and fell back to the earth in a plume of smoke less than a minute into the flight.

Now, if that didn't shock you, then I don't know what will.

The fact that the space shuttle blew up during the launch was something that, to me, felt too surreal. I mean, how could something like this just…happen? Space shuttles don't blow up after liftoff, that's insane!

Then again, it was way too real.

I could only watch as people around me broke down in tears. The seven astronauts on that shuttle had disappeared without a trace during the explosion. One of those astronauts was a teacher at some local high school. It was upsetting to know that that teacher wasn't going to be coming back to her school. None of the astronauts would be coming back to their families.

Just as I was never going back home to my parents.

The rest of that day was mired in tragedy. I saw many teachers crying and students in shock. I was sure that whatever "important" thing everyone was focused on was wiped away due to the tragedy. As for me, I learned a harsh lesson on how short life is, and how you shouldn't waste your time trying to escape from the world, but you should live in the world. (Maybe I should stop avoiding the other kids, but that's a given.)

As far as I know, January 28, 1986 was a sad day for the nation. But what they don't know wasn't just how or why the space shuttle had blown up. Things like that happen for reasons the human mind is unable to understand.

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