Friday, January 28, 2011

A day in my life -- 25 years ago.

25 years ago today, the space shuttle challenger blew up.

Kiddies, you can find the relevant details here

That's not really what this post is about.

However, the events of that particular day allowed me to remember, with more clarity that normal, what went on in my life on that particular day.

I woke up that morning hearing bulletins on the clock radio about the incident.  That means I must have woken up around noon.  Yep, I wasn't a morning person back then, either.

I was working in radio back then, specifically, I was the afternoon drive announcer at CKLA in Guelph.  Back then, it played "beautiful music" and was heard in doctors and dentists offices all over the region.  Seriously, even at that time, although the music they played was considered old and stale by contemporary standards of the time, the fact remained that people were listening and the station actually made money.  But I digress.

When I came into work that day (around 3:00) they had ditched the elevator music in favour of playing constant news coverage of the event.  I thought it was rather interesting only because that meant I didn't really have to "work" that day as the newspeople basically took over until aout 5 or 6 that day.

So, drinking coffee and engaging in idle chatter that day, I experienced two things that demonstrate how people cope with these things:

1.  My first "space shuttle" jokes.  I remember the first clearly.  It was that NASA stands for "Nice Air Shot Assholes."  The second one I don't recall clearly but it had something to do the space shuttle being the world's most expensive ashtray.   (Hey, I never said they were in good taste or even actually funny!)  I should point out that these comments only circulated amongst those of us on the lower rungs at the station and never, and I mean never within range of a manager or, God forbid, a microphone.  Management was very serious about the whole issue and, at least publicly in the building, demonstrated leadership in how we were supposed to behave on-air about the incident.

2. My first experience with public grief.  People seemed to be all beside themselves over the fact that these seven unfortunate people died doing something that is, inherently, dangerous.   The phone lines at the station were flooded by calls from people telling us how awful the whole event was.  They needed to talk to someone about it.  I'm not downplaying the sadness of the incident, but in my mind at the time my reaction was more along the lines of "bummer, that sucks" but unless I had a personal connection to any of the astronauts, I didn't see the logic in being in grief over it.  Sometime later, Jean-Michel Jarre released his album "Rendez-Vouz" which had a piece where the saxophone part was to be performed from that shuttle by Ron McNair.  Suddenly there was a connection for me.  I didn't go into convulsions of grief.  My reaction was "Major bummer.  That really sucks."

That's pretty much it.  No heavy-duty stories to relate here other than the fact that I still remember something I experienced 25 years ago.  If there's a point here, I guess it's just that when I heard about the 25th anniversary on the news this morning, I was amazed at the memories that came back and at how an incident like that has a tendency to bring out those "where were you when..." types of memories.

Which leads me to remember that when Columbia blew up 17 years later (Feb 1, 2003) my wife and I were on our way to the Canadian national junior figure skating championships in Brampton and we heard the bulletin on the radio.

Amazing how the mind works.

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