Twenty-five years ago this morning, the shuttle Challenger took off on an historic mission that would leave the country struck with shock and grief.
I was a third grade student at a small Christian school, and I remember being very excited that day to see the first school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, go into space. Our classroom had a tv set up for us to watch this historical moment. We prayed as a class for the safety of the astronauts and then excitedly watched the countdown. We all wondered and nervously chatted aloud, "Would we be brave enough to fly in a space shuttle?" It all seemed so exciting and surreal as we watched a teacher head off into space. (We were getting to watch tv in school, too, which just seemed extra exciting.)
Just seconds into take-off, something went terribly wrong. Our teacher watched in horror along with the rest of us as we tried to decipher what had happened. A large explosion...falling debris...surely it couldn't be...
One of the many blessings I remember of being at a Christian school happened that instant: our teacher had us all huddle into a circle and we prayed for those astronauts, for their families, and for all those involved in the apparent tragedy that had just occurred. We prayed first for a miracle--that somehow they would survive; we prayed for God's comfort for the families of the astronauts; and we prayed for wisdom for our president and leaders.
This was a lesson that my parents had been instilling in me at home, but that day, God used my teacher and the other students in my class to affirm in my mind that in all trials and tragedies, turning to God is what must happen in my life. Only HE can provide true refuge, comfort, and peace in light of tragedy.
Psalm 46: 1-2
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
President Ronald Regan gave a stirring speech that night in place of his State of the Union Address.
"The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God'."