Readers recall the tragedy
Local residents say images of the Challenger disaster remain fixed in their memories 20 years after the tragedy. Much like those who lived during the assassination of President John Kennedy or the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, people who respon...
Local residents say images of the Challenger disaster remain fixed in their memories 20 years after the tragedy.
Much like those who lived during the assassination of President John Kennedy or the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, people who responded to The Forum's Real People Bank queries say they have vivid recollections of the shuttle explosion.
"I remember it was a work day. I went to my apartment at lunchtime and saw it unfold on TV," said Paula Johnson, 53, of Moorhead. "It was very sad that we were all so excited by the launch, especially from publicity surrounding Christa McAuliffe being the first teacher in space."
For those who were in school, the disaster became part of an instant civics lesson.
"I was getting ready for eighth-grade American history class. Our teacher brought in a TV, and the class watched and discussed it throughout class," said Justin Schardin, 33, of Fargo.
"I was in college, my sophomore year. I remember asking what could have happened, and should we be sending people into space," said Gerry Even, 39, of Fargo.
For some, initial feelings of sadness and disbelief turned to anger and distrust.
"My first thought about the entire matter was why did NASA need to jeopardize so many lives by not reviewing the spacecraft better than what they did?" said Brian Capanoli, 45, of Hibbing, Minn.
"If they knew that the possibility existed that this would happen, it would have been better for them to cancel or postpone the mission and resolve the mechanics instead of placing these people at risk," Capanoli said.
For some, the disaster was a wake-up call regarding the safety of the nation's space program.
"When I was growing up, the space program was a patriotic component of American life, right up there along with the flag and apple pie," said Julie Nelson, 48, of Valley City. "The optimistic spirit created by this flight seemed to fade with its destruction."
Moorhead resident Richard Peterson said President Ronald Reagan failed to appreciate the danger involved with space travel.
"Sending a teacher into space was a publicity stunt, intended to bolster his image in regard to education," Peterson said. "(McAuliffe's) death made the tragedy more personal to all of us regular citizens."
For Monty Mertz, 49, of Fargo, the nation's response to the disaster brought a sense of pride.
"It did warm my heart to see that America could come together to grieve and honor the brave astronauts. I will never forget President Reagan's speech."
The Challenger explosion sparked a debate about the value of NASA and the space program that continues today.
"I feel that we waste a lot of money which could be better served in other ways, such as better housing for low-income families, better educational opportunities for minorities, looking for solutions in the employment situation, instead of outsourcing," Capanoli said.
Others counter that space exploration is worth the cost.
"It is very important that we continue to move ahead and find out more about where we live in the universe," said Kirk Haws, 53, of Fargo.
"The good that has been derived from the research for the space program alone has paid for it many times over and look what we have learned. This is the basic research of a life time and it should continue," Haws said.