Time stands still and imprints the moment on your psyche like a photograph. You can remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, who was there. When it dawned on you that the world had suddenly shifted beneath your feet. And I remember - very clearly - the first time this happened for me.
Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In 1986, Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida into a cloudless, clear blue sky. Among her crew was social studies teacher Christa McCauliffe who was to teach the first ever lesson from space.
72 seconds later, Challenger became a ball of fire against that cloudless, clear, blue Florida sky. Pieces of it rained down into the ocean. All seven members of her crew died instantly. (There is some question as to how long the crew actually survived after the initial breakup, but I can't bear to think about that so in my mind, it was over before they knew it.) Challenger Disaster
The world sat in stunned silence.
I was freshman in high school sitting in my Freshman English Class - Literature of Conflict and Survival - with Mr. Schmaing. Mrs. Snoddy, the attendance office lady came to the door with a note. Mr. Schmaing read it to himself, raised his considerable eyebrows above his glasses, turned to us and said, "I don't know if any of you care, but the space shuttle just blew up."
And twenty or so 15-year-olds sat for a few moments in stunned silence. And then returned to our discussion of Alas, Babylon. Ironically, set in Florida.
The next time I have a clear and vivid memory of where, what, who and when was September 11, 2001.
Again with the beautiful, clear, blue sky that in a moment was shattered.
Every generation has a moment like that.
For my parents, it was a beautiful November day in Dallas. My grandparents, a December day in Hawaii.
I wonder what my children's moment will be and I pray that it will be a moment of great joy instead of shattering sorrow.