It is very hard for me to believe that it was 25 years ago this morning when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff. It was a snow day for me in my senior year of high school on January 28, 1986. I was home and bored and flipping channels. I had completely forgotten about the “Teacher In Space” on the Shuttle that day until I came upon the live NASA feed being simulcast on the then-called “Learning Channel”.
So I stuck with it. One problem, there were no commentators… just the NASA flight announcer. After the explosion, I just stared at the TV. When the NASA guy said “Obviously a major malfunction….”, I switched to CNN.
That day is etched into my memory and was a day I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. It was raw, visual, scary, sad and very emotional to watch the TV coverage.
But then the President addressed the nation in the early evening.
This was one of Ronald Reagan’s finest moments as our President. Remember, this was the man who had steered us out of the greatest economic downturn since WWII (until 2008), restored America’s national defenses, and was on the verge of bringing down the Soviet Union and Eastern European Communism. America was back — until the Challenger explosion rocked our world that day.
This was also probably one of Reagan’s last great moments in office. Within the year, the Iran-Contra scandal would cripple his administration up until nearly the day he left office in 1989. Only his farewell speech would bring back the vintage Reagan that we saw 25 years ago tonight.