“Class please settle down! I know you’re excited to watch the Challenger launch but we still have a few hours before the assembly.” Ms. Jefferson called over the class.
“I seriously don’t wanna wait those extra hours! I want time to speed up so we can watch the launch!” Elizabeth, my best friend, leaned over and whispered to me.
I nodded, the Challenger launch was probably the biggest thing that was happening this week. Everyone and I mean everyone, was excited about it. Elizabeth had been coming over every day ever since the Challenger launch was announced so we could talk about it together. I was especially excited about Christa McAuliffe. She was gonna be the first teacher in space!
“If a teacher can go to space, then surely weirdos like us can go to!” Elizabeth had said a couple of days ago.
“Ok right. Our lesson is almost over. I’m just going to pick a few students at random to solve the problems I wrote on the board” Ms. Jefferson said.
I noticed Elizabeth squirm. She wasn’t the best at math no matter how hard she tried.
Ms. Jefforson reached into a cup filled with popsicle sticks and pulled one out.
“Micheal!” she read from the stick “Please solve problem 1”
Elizabeth releases a sigh of relief as Micheal got up and walked to the board. He grabbed a piece of chalk and started writing quickly. When he finished, he glanced at Ms. Jefferson to see if he got it correct.
Ms. Jefferson nodded and told Micheal he could sit back down. Mary went next, then April, and then James.
“Ok great job everyone. We just have one more problem” Ms. Jefferson declared and reached into the cup for the last time.
“Ok Jessie, you’re up!”
“Good luck” Elizabeth whispered to me as I got up from my seat and went up to the board to solve the final problem. I wasn’t too worried truth be told because math was one of my best subjects.
I read the problem on the board. It was just a simple proportion. I cross-multiplied and divided and double-checked my work before turning around and looking at Ms. Jefferson.
“Great job Jessie” I heard her say as I went to sit down.
“Wow, you solved that so quickly!” Elizabeth gaped at me.
“It was simple. Just a simple proportion” I shrugged.
“Ok then. We have around 5 minutes until the assembly. So how about you all work on your homework?” Ms. Jefferson told us.
I pulled my folder out of my bag and took out my homework. I wrote and scribbled until I heard a bell ring.
“Everyone in a single file line please! We are going to walk quietly and calmly to the gym”
I got up and grabbed Elizabeth’s hand as we ran up to the front of the classroom to get in line. You could practically hear the excitement of everyone buzzing in the air. We all started walking down the halls and made our way to the gym. I could already hear the talking of all the other middle school classes. We made one more turn and walked into the gym.
“It’s really happening!” Elizabeth whispered to me and pointed to the screen at the front of the gym.
“I know, I know! This is going to be amazing!” I whispered back as we all sat down.
Mr. Sanders (our principal) got up and walked to the front of the room. Instantly, a hush fell over the gym.
“Ok, everyone! The launch is about to begin so I need you all to be very quiet so we can hear what the announcer is saying. You can clap and cheer once the shuttle has taken off understood?” he called.
“Yes sir!” we all said in unison.
“Great! Now sit back and enjoy the launch!” Mr. Sanders walked away and joined the other teachers at the side of the gym.
All eyes turned to the screen. The announcer was saying something but I wasn’t paying attention. I guess I was too transfixed.
“And we’re lifting off in t-minus 10...9...8…” the announcer said.
Elizabeth nudged my shoulder and mouthed “Isn’t this awesome” to me. I nodded excitedly.
The first teacher in space! There were so many things important about this launch. And the best part was...we got to see it! Live! In school!
4...3...2...1! ANd we have lift-off!
A thunderous cheer went up in the gym. I think I even saw Mrs. Wellston crying.
“Look at it, Jessie! They’re actually going to space!” Elizabeth shouted at me over the large cheers of the crowd.
“Haha, I know! This is ama-” I started to reply but I was cut short by a large BOOM!
I whipped my head around and looked at the screen. My eyes went wide at the sight before me.
There was just a ball of gas and flame in the sky.
“T-the Challenger…” is all I managed to say.
“What just happened!” I heard someone call from across the room. It sounded like Maxwell.
“Did it explode!” Massey asked.
“Are the passengers alive!?” Elizabeth asked, her voice cracking.
Several voices piped up and asked questions. Everyone was scared and confused. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.
“Everyone please calm down!” Mr. Sanders called. It was no use. We were all in a state of panic. The Challenger had just exploded. People had probably died. And did that mean space travel wasn’t safe anymore?! What did any of this mean!
Elizabeth sat on my bed playing around with my Walkman that I got for my birthday.
We were dismissed early that day. The teachers thought it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to continue schooling after witnessing such a “traumatizing” event. I guess there was some truth in that. I don’t think I could’ve solved any proportions or anything like that.
“Do you think people will ever go to space again?” Elizabeth asked, flopping on her stomach.
I shrugged and turned another page of my book “Maybe, but I imagine not for a while. People are probably scared to go back after what happened”
Elizabeth sighed “Do you still wanna go to space? Do you trust that the shuttles will get better and everything?”
I closed my book and leaned against the bed in thought.
“I don’t really know Elizabeth,” I replied sadly.