I was 6 months pregnant with Skotchdopole and living in San Marcos, Texas. I had taken a job babysitting a rambunctious two-year old named Chaz, and had just plopped down on the couch after getting him to sleep for his morning nap.
I turned on the television, and when the picture came up I was confused. I was looking at a giant cloud in the shape of a “Y”. The voice of the correspondent and the words on the screen told me the news. I knew what I was looking at. And I went numb.
In case I haven’t mentioned, I’m a huge space geek. Planes, rockets, jetpacks… anything that leaves this earth makes me happy. I never understood why all shuttle launches and landings weren’t shown on live television. Were we really living in such a modern world that we could take these things for granted? Had a liftoff really become as commonplace as an airplane taking off? It made me sad. It also had allowed me to lose touch.
I remember as they began showing the pictures and names of the crew. I stared at one of the faces in disbelief. I remember calling my mom, saying that it couldn’t be the same Dick Scobee that we knew from Edwards Air Force Base. He was a test pilot, not an astronaut, right? His wife, June, taught English and was one of my favorite teachers. We went to school with their kids. This just couldn’t be real. I remember how we sobbed together on the telephone as the reality sunk in.
I had no idea he had joined NASA.
The memory of one of my best friends, Erin Fiedler, reading the poem “High Flight” in English class, came back to me. I remember Mrs. Scobee saying it was her favorite poem.
Eight years later, Lieutenant Francis Richard “Dick” Scobee, Commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger, “slipped the surly bonds of earth… put out his hand, and touched the face of God.”