An Unforgettable Trip to the Little Boy’s Room

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Wow, isn’t that a title? One of my pet peeves is people who refer to the restroom as “the little boy’s room” or “the little girl’s room.” Seriously. But, in this case, it’s quite literal.

I was in elementary school. Fifth grade, to be precise. Mrs. Thrasher’s class at Jonesburg Elementary.

Sometime that morning, my ADD got the better of me and I wrangled a hall pass to get to the rest room. Well, my plans of killing boredom were thwarted when I stepped in and, lo and behold, found the school principal. It was almost like he knew I was coming in there not for nature’s call, but to goof off.

Screen shot 2016-02-04 at 11.24.42 AMHowever, instead of scolding me or sending me back to class, he asked if I knew about the space shuttle. Although there was a teacher on board, I don’t remember our class actually watching the lift off on TV. Maybe we did, but I don’t remember. Then, he said something confusing: “They think we lost it…lost the shuttle.”

Lost the shuttle? Isn’t that thing the size of our entire school? What’s he mean, “lost it?” Well, still intending to goof off, I didn’t ask any questions, I just did my business and went back to class.

Garrett and I exploring the inside of a NASA space shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center

Garrett and I exploring the inside of a NASA space shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center

The time frame is foggy, but later in the day, my teacher explained that the rocket had exploded. That all seven astronauts, including the teacher, were dead. I guess I still didn’t really get it, but over the next weeks, after watching and re-watching the footage of the explosion, I guess it finally hit me. And not in the real terms of a loss, but just that something like this could actually happen.

I was able, in my teenage years, to visit Arlington National Cemetery, which has a memorial to the fallen astronauts. Then, in those post-college single years, I was watching the news when it was reported that the space shuttle Columbia had also exploded. Part of me wasn’t terribly shocked. Mainly, in the wake of 9-11, it was pretty hard to shock Americans.

Screen shot 2016-02-04 at 11.24.14 AMNow, thinking back to 30 years ago when first Challenger, then Columbia, were lost, all I feel is grateful. I mean, let’s just face it: space travel is unnatural. Hell, even flying is unnatural to we mere mortals. But, NASA and the shuttle program created astronauts who were willing to push the boundaries of knowledge for the advancement of civilization.

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