Toby McKnight told me that the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. We were in junior high school - way before the Internet, iPhones, and instant streaming. Initially, I misunderstood what he said. Challenger had been plagued with issues prior to that doomed mission - a mission that was different in more ways than one. There was a teacher on board. Televisions in school offices everywhere were tuned in for the historic launch. What I thought Toby said was, "The space shuttle didn't go up!" So my flippant reply was, "Oh they'll never get that thing up!"
Of course what he actually said was, "The Space Shuttle blew up!" I stood there dumbfounded. He wasn't making any sense. I remember the somber tone of the school rest of the day. I remember watching the replay of the explosion over and over again on television that night. A somber tone of a nation followed.
Discovery was the Shuttle that gave us all hope after the tragedy of the Challenger. The first Shuttle to go back into space. It also became the first shuttle I would ever see airborne with my own eyes as it "flew" its last mission from Florida to D.C. this week. Thanks to my tipster brother, I didn't miss it.
The emotion of that moment Discovery came into view on the back of a 747 and escorted by a minuscule jet, in comparison, is now etched into my memory.
Not bad for a weekday morning.