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On Innocence Lost, From the Eyes of Gen X

December 22, 2012

Challenger_explosionThe smoke twisted and turned across the sky in a fluffy white cotton candy stream.  I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like – should it look like this?  I looked to my teacher’s eyes and I knew – something was wrong.  The Challenger was broken.

But there I sat among the neat rows of 4th graders, in our Crayola-colored chairs, waiting for the explanation.  Instead, we heard gasps on location in Florida.  And we stared in silence at the television cart that only minutes before had been wheeled in for the momentous occasion.

For weeks we’d talked about the Challenger’s impending launch.  Christa McAullife would be on board — a curly-haired, common school teacher whose smiling face we’d come to recognize.  We’d read about her selection in our Weekly Reader and watched video of her training at Space Camp.  And now she was . . . where?  Our eyes stayed locked on the swirling smoke until Mrs. Seeger turned off the television set.

“Well, we won’t know what happened for a while, so we better get back to our social studies.”  And then she finished by saying we could check back later.  And that was all.  I found this somehow reassuring.  “We can check back later.”  But the television was left off that day.  And I wondered about it through lunch and recess.  Everyone was okay, I decided.  We couldn’t see the astronauts, but they were there — they’d parachuted to safety, I just knew it.  Just like the end of a Sunday night Disney movie, there’d be a happy ending, an uplifting swell of music — only without the chimpanzees or Don Knotts.

Instead, I’d learn by evening that Christa McAullife and all six astronauts perished that day — in real-time, right before our eyes.  And other classrooms across the nation watched it too.


Today, I hardly know of a person my age who can’t recall that day, the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.  Perhaps it’s my own generation’s 9-11 or Kennedy being shot – that clear moment in time that you can mark on a calendar, that very instance when the world felt really scary for the first time and the life-as-we-know-it bubble burst.

For years I’d been carefully stored in a safe little snow globe in Anytown, USA.  Sometimes people died before their time, this I knew, but I was either unaware or not affected enough to take heart of these occurrences.  Murder and war were hardly in my vocabulary.  My dad was a Vietnam vet, my grandfather survived the second world war, my parents took shelter under their school desks for bomb drills — but these things were also in our history books and, therefore, not of our modern times it seemed.

And evil?  What was evil?  I’ll tell you what were evil.  Children of the Corn were evil.  More on that later.  Oh, I wasn’t completely unaware that bad things lurked behind dark corners.  In the mornings, I used to eat my cereal beside missing paperboys on milk cartons.  So I’d chew my Rice Chex and ponder what happened to them.  They disappeared.  But where and with whom?  Maybe with a dad or uncle, I’d think – sad because they miss their moms, but living on the road in an RV like the Return from Witch Mountain orphans.

Eventually . . . Savannah smiles.

Eventually . . . Savannah smiles.

Or maybe like on the movie Savannah Smiles — maybe kidnapped and having the time of their lives.  And maybe, like Savannah, they’d decide their kidnappers took better care of them than their wealthy, detached parents did.

Much later I heard Adam’s story.  Adam Walsh was kidnapped from a shopping mall in Florida.  His head was found in a canal.  That’s the detail I remember.  That horrible detail.  How did I know this?  I can’t say.  Thankfully, we only had four TV stations in the early ‘80s, which kept us well insulated.  And the news shows only came on twice – and I was in bed during one of them.  And even still, even then, I believed that those horrible things that I now knew could happen could only happen if you lived in a far off city.

milk_carton_kidThat’s why, in the summer before I turned nine, when a three-year-old neighbor girl disappeared from her backyard, I wasn’t really worried.  It was dark and she’d been missing for an hour.  Soon neighbors were out walking the blocks, calling her name.

My brother and I hopped on our bikes and pedaled to a nearby park at the edge of town.  There we traveled up and down a dimly lit stretch of gravel road, along rows and rows of corn.  I was terrified.  As I yelled the girl’s name, I worried more for my own safety.  The darkness, the endless rows of corn that seemed to converge into a dark hole — I hadn’t seen Children of the Corn, but I knew about it from friends and had watched previews on TV.  Something could happen to me.  Some form of evil lives out there.  And that “out there”, the evil concocted by Hollywood, felt more real to me than the evil that actually existed among us, the human kind, the kind that would snatch children away from their sandboxes.

The neighbor girl was soon found – asleep inside a doghouse.  But for days I couldn’t shut my eyes at night in fear of the demons inside the cornfield.

I don’t often cry at anything.  And it’s felt like years since I’ve all-out bawled.  Yet I’ve cried nearly every day since I heard the news of the Newtown murders last Friday.  Every day something different hits me.  And I don’t even watch television.  But it finds me anyway.


Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

One day, I cried while reading of firefighters traveling from New York to stand outside a young victim’s funeral – he wanted to someday join their ranks.  One day, I cried at the very sight of a flag at half-mast.  One day, I cried after seeing my daughter’s pure joy over where the Elf on the Shelf emerged that morning – with the sinking realization that many miles away there were elves on the shelves that hadn’t moved since Thursday.

One day, it was after reading that the young Newtown victims were going to make gingerbread houses that afternoon.  For days I’ve obsessed over this.  Having a strong connection to my own childhood, reading this sort of detail sends me immediately back to that place in life.  In first grade, just knowing I’d be making gingerbread houses with my classmates on Friday would’ve made my whole week.  By Wednesday, I would’ve practically peed myself in anticipation of the coming event, and on Thursday night I would’ve stayed awake strategizing how I’d turn gumdrops into shingles and use candy canes for fence posts.

I remain optimistic that healing can occur over time, that families will pull together, that the community of Newtown will endure.  But I will continue to grieve for the loss of innocence, which is forever – for the children who witnessed things they wouldn’t even be allowed to see on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for those who lost siblings, for those who lost friends, for those who lost teachers – and on and on to every young child who heard the story from cautious parents and friends at schools hundreds of miles away.

Last Friday, I wanted to gather up my children, ages five and three, and store them away in the same little snow globe where I once lived — at least until they’re 12.  Along the way, a beloved pet may die, an elderly relative might get sick, and I will help them grieve and experience loss as a part of life.  But I will hope and pray with all my might that they’ll never hear what happened inside that school.  I want their lives to feel safe and their innocence left in tact.  I want them to believe that teachers, like astronauts, are invincible like superheroes.

And each day, when I kiss them goodbye and send them away to school, I want them to believe they’ll always come back.

210 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2012 5:56 am

    Thank you. Beautiful work.

    • December 21, 2012 9:46 am

      I appreciate you reading it. It wasn’t an easy one to write.

      • December 21, 2012 3:17 pm

        It’s no small feat to keep your voice, which I respect as a reader, while delving into delicate, difficult subjects.

  2. December 21, 2012 6:15 am

    Beautifully written and no doubt a hard post to write.

  3. December 21, 2012 6:23 am

    So beautifully put, Angie. And the analogy to the Challenger disaster is exactly right. The confidence in our society’s ability to protect its most vulnerable exploded on Friday. And we will be finding bits of our hearts scattered far and wide for a very, very long time.

    Give those kids an extra hug from me.

    • December 21, 2012 9:51 am

      Since that first moon walk, how many kids grew up wanting to be astronauts? I remember with the Challenger disaster that I was disturbed that astronauts could die like that. The thought never occurred to me that their work was even dangerous. It wasn’t like watching an Evel Knievel stunt — I was totally not prepared. And now, even as an adult, I find myself thinking something similar — I had not mentally prepared myself that kids could be targeted at schools. And I of course remember the Scotland and Amish schools incidents. I guess I was living with blinders on.

      Thanks, Elyse.

      • December 21, 2012 11:12 am

        I’d like to put those blinders back on, personally.

        But of course today we are hearing from the NRA that what we really need is more guns. And hey! Let’s put them IN schools!

        I just keep asking myself, “what sort of a society have we become?”

  4. December 21, 2012 6:31 am

    Thank you.

    • December 21, 2012 9:53 am

      I’ll be honest — I didn’t want to write this. I sort of felt I had to.

  5. December 21, 2012 6:40 am

    Ah, a great post and exactly true. The Challenger was the first tragedy I remember. I was home from school that day so I saw all the news coverage of it. Imagine if my sixth-grade self had instead seen coverage of a school shooting. Very different tragedies.

    Here’s to hoping our kids can believe in their safety and hold onto that innocence for a long time to come.

    • December 21, 2012 10:00 am

      Oh wow. I’m glad I didn’t see all the news coverage of the Challenger disaster. While writing this, I thought I better go back and re-experience the scene — and I watched the most dreadful film clip. I remember it for some reason, whether I saw it as a kid (I hope not) or just saw it reran as a young adult. After the explosion, the film cuts over to the bleachers where about 100 or so people gathered to watch the launch. Mostly friends and family of the astronauts, I’m guessing. Text on the screen points out Christa McAullife’s parents. And to see their faces close-up as the realization sinks in was purely awful — and, honestly, it took a painfully long time for some of them to grasp what was happening. Sort of like us kids watching it in our classrooms. I later had to watch It’s A Wonderful Life just to purge all the awfulness out of my head for a while.

      Yes, here’s hoping our kids will not have to live in fear of anything more than a monster under their beds.

      • December 21, 2012 11:29 am

        When I saw it, I was home alone for some reason, and I remember thinking, “Is this real?” So much of what I watched up to that point wasn’t.

      • January 3, 2013 7:20 pm

        They brought the T.V. into our class when I was in school and we watched it reoccur a few times and discussed how a teacher was on board… We did not have to wonder how it would or could effect us, Yet I agree, my mind tried to protect me too, by giving me a sense of disbelief or separateness…

    • January 11, 2013 7:57 am

      I was home that day too – actually over at a friend’s house because of a blizzard in the northeast that gave us the day off school.

      I think any tragedy of this magnitude triggers thoughts of disbelief. I kept waiting for reality to come back and tell us that the astronauts had ejected safely just prior to the crash or some other explanation that spared some of the grief.

  6. Jess m permalink
    December 21, 2012 7:15 am

    Great post.

  7. December 21, 2012 7:17 am

    Oh, Angie. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this with us. How could I ever forget watching the Challenger? Or hearing about Adam Walsh? I tend to take these horrible stories and bury them deep in my heart. The trick is to not let it fester into fear. I’m still working on it.

    Today my kids have a half day and it’s pajama day. I can’t even put into words how emotional I was just dropping them off a half hour ago, watching them walk away in their Mario and Hello Kitty pj’s, giggling and holding hands. Bursting with joy and excitement for Christmas vacation. How can it be that now I am petrified to even take them to school?

    Today was the first morning I haven’t cried since the Newtown tragedy. I will see if I can get through the day. I have my doubts.

    I’ve told you how I’ve been desperately been trying to prevent my son from learning about what happened? because I feared his reaction. Well, he came home yesterday and said the school’s cop came to his class to talk about the shootings. I said, “You know about what happened?” and he very calmly said he did. “Yeah, some guy came in and killed 20 kids and 6 teachers” Then he asked me if he could play the Wii. How a ten year old processes this kind of information is very different from an adult. I am making it my main goal to learn from my own kids how to live and how to enjoy the moment.

    • January 1, 2013 6:42 pm

      Thanks for your comment, DarDar. I’m so sorry about your son finding out about the shootings. I suspect finding out that way is much less damaging than seeing the news clips reran on television — again and again. And it’s probably better coming from a trusted adult than from another kid at school. But, ugh, why can’t they think we all live in an episode of The Brady Bunch — at least for a little while longer? And I’m of course referring to the pre-Cousin Oliver years.

      Change of subject, I hope Pajama Day rocked.

      • January 2, 2013 9:06 am

        Well, well, well. Would you look at this! A little bird by the name of Julesy told me you were FP again!!

        Of course, I am not a bit surprised by this news. Certainly a post VERY worthy of FP, Angie. One of your best, in my humble opinion. Thank you for writing it, it really helped me process things just talking with you about it. I am honored to know you, seriously. Much love, hugs and high fives coming your way.

        And Pajama Day DID rock. Our entire vacation rocked, I made sure to enjoy every minute with them. :)

  8. December 21, 2012 7:46 am

    Beautifully expressed with your words, Angie.

  9. December 21, 2012 8:07 am

    Reblogged this on FiftyFourandAHalf and commented:
    Angie is the voice of childhood. She remembers the details, the feelings, the sounds and the smells. Here she puts what we lost on Friday in Newtown into context. Beautifully.

  10. Jueseppi B. permalink
    December 21, 2012 8:15 am

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Very powerful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all. I don’t know your name because I can’t find it on your blog, so I will refer to you as Ms. Childhood Relived. I wish you & your family a wonderfully joyous Kwanzaa, Christmas & Hanukkah & a healthy, happy & prosperous New Year.

  11. December 21, 2012 8:15 am

    Beautifully written. I continue to shed tears for the people of Newtown. Dropping off my 7 year old son and 9 year old daughter everyday at school continues to remind me of the “what if’s”. Every parent in the world now hold their children closer and I have vowed that I will NEVER let a day go by without telling them how much I love them.

    • January 1, 2013 6:45 pm

      It changed a lot for me, too. Two weeks later, I’m still hugging my kids a lot more. And my daughter is growing tired of me physically crawling into bed with her for her nightly storytime.

  12. December 21, 2012 8:25 am

    Of course I remember the Challenger incident. I, too, was watching at school. It was horrific. I will never forget that day. Much as I assume that I will never forget the events of Newtown, CT. I also struggled with what to tell my kids. The little one hopefully will know nothing of it, but before we sent our 7 year old off to school on Monday, fearful of what he would hear on that infernal bus, we sat him down and explained what happened. It was a very glossed over explanation, but we felt we had to be the ones to break it to him. He asked questions about the gun and the kids and then seemed completely unfazed.

    I have been crying all week. It has gotten better as the week went on, and I have been steadfastly avoiding any news or facebook mention of the incident, just to preserve my sanity and the wall of strength I have built up for my kids. But every once in a while something will hit me, and I’ll lose it. I hope that will diminish soon, because it’s taking everything I have to stay strong for my kids.

    • January 1, 2013 6:55 pm

      I’m sure you did the right thing by filling in your 7 year old, who was bound to hear it soon enough. So many crummy conversations we have to have with our kids over time. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a library of relevant afterschool specials we could just throw into the VCR as needed? I think that’s what our parents did.

      I hope you all had a nice holiday break, Misty.

  13. December 21, 2012 8:32 am

    I have thought of Christa McAuliffe this week, another New England teacher who lost her life. Thank you for sharing the details of the time. I remember one of daughter’s favorite books that intrigued her was “The Face on the Milk Carton”. I read it too, after she did, because I wanted to know what she might be thinking…so different from the fictional Nancy Drew mysteries I had read at her age.

    • January 1, 2013 6:59 pm

      Thank you for that book reference — I’m intrigued now. And thanks for reading.

  14. December 21, 2012 8:37 am

    Beautifully written and very compelling.

    As a fellow Gen X-er (though I’m a little older than you), I had the same childhood of milk cartons and nightly news. We were shielded from a lot, weren’t we? I think it was better that way. I try to shield my daughter from most of what goes on. Honestly, how much of this news do we need to know? So I turned off my tv after about 10 minutes of the Newtown Tragedy. But it didn’t matter. She was affected by this before it even happened. The schools already do lockdown drills as routine. That followed the Amish school killings and the others since that (forgotten?) massacre.

    I wish I could protect my daughter and let her have the innocent childhood that I enjoyed, but it looks like the world won’t let me.

    • January 1, 2013 7:03 pm

      Thank you. Yes, I’ve been thinking of the Amish school shootings and the shootings in the school in Scotland — a lot lately. And of course, all the kids in inner cities that have to walk through rough areas to get to school. All of it. I think when you’re a mother, you’re a mother to all children. I know it sounds corny, but I wish I could wrap them all up in a fuzzy blanket and keep them safe.

  15. December 21, 2012 9:03 am


  16. December 21, 2012 9:59 am

    Now I’m crying!

    Btw, I particularly appreciated your description of The Challenger because I wasn’t alive and I never really understood what that day was like. My first reading about it was some article in American Studies that was all about how an unqualified teacher shouldn’t have been on board in the first place (nice).

    • January 1, 2013 7:12 pm

      I don’t know that I even understand why that particular tragedy is the one that is dogeared in my childhood — certainly a lot of other horrible things occurred in that decade. Since most of us were watching it in school, I think it was just really scary to watch the grownups around us react in the moment. There was really no buffer of time to allow them to filter their feelings.

      • January 2, 2013 8:35 am

        Yeah and there was so much build up and investment in it, right? Didn’t they have a contest for which teacher gets to go into space, like a reality show before there were reality shows? And especially for kids, a teacher must have been so relatable.

        Whereas now, there could be a launch scheduled for tomorrow and I wouldn’t know it, but you all knew exactly who was on that shuttle and were watching it. No wonder it sticks out.

  17. December 21, 2012 10:24 am

    You are so right on about “innocence lost” and the Challenger. I remember it well. I couldn’t comprehend it.

    I still can’t comprehend Newtown–in the same way my child brain couldn’t believe that the astronauts were really gone forever. I remember worrying about Christa’s children and what they would do without their mom.

    Now I worry about the Newtown families and the community. Their loss. Their grief. How all the school children in that community must feel each day. So I just pray. Because what else can we do?

    Thanks for writing this, Angie! You are so very brilliant.

    • January 1, 2013 7:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Rachel. It’s not a fun thing to talk about, but I pray and cry a lot these days. And you probably know me enough to know I’d much rather write about Pop Rocks and denim scrunchies.

  18. December 21, 2012 10:51 am

    Amen, Angie.

  19. December 21, 2012 11:06 am

    Brilliantly and unforgettably well written, in a way so universally emotionally evocative, that even a hardened and cynical 56 year old guy like me is genuinely moved by the power of reading what you have written here. Elyse sent me, and I’m glad that I made the trip. Sometimes I feel like I’ve forgotten how to feel… or finally become too numb to feel anything but my burning anger, when provoked by needlessly tragic and horrific atrocitities like Newtown… until someone like you proves to me that I still can feel empathy, sorrow and compassion. Which hurts… but it’s worth it and vitally important to me. Thanks for that.

    • January 1, 2013 9:03 pm

      Thank you for this, Chris. What a nice comment — candid, genuine, thoughtful. Although, it does feel nice to be a little numb to it all sometimes, as much as I hate to admit it.

  20. December 21, 2012 11:20 am

    Thank you, Angie.

    • January 1, 2013 8:49 pm

      So good to see you, Audrey. Hope you enjoyed the holidays with your family.

  21. Deborah the Closet Monster permalink
    December 21, 2012 11:34 am

    This is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I second your wishes as I mourn not only those lost but innocence lost.

  22. December 21, 2012 12:41 pm

    That was beautiful, Angie. And you are definitely not alone in shedding tears. Even though I’m living day by day as usual, heartache for all the parents who lost their children still weighs heavily in my heart and in the back of my mind. I feel the same way about wanting to shield my children forever and not let them go. This tragedy is definitely one I’ll be remembering for a very long time because it hit home in such a powerful way, being a mother of young children. I pray everyday for the safety of our children, and for God’s continued mercies, strength, peace, comfort, and healing of hearts for all who have lost their colleague, friend, family, and child…

    • January 1, 2013 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Ms. Jolly. This tragedy feels differently than anything I’ve lived through. I don’t want to “get over it,” but I do really need to get it out of my head for a while, you know? I don’t want this weighing me down as I parent my children and somehow end up transferring this anxiety, anger and grief to them. It so damn hard to navigate it all. I really wish Mr. Rogers was here.

  23. December 21, 2012 1:03 pm

    Well done, Angie. Oddly, for me, it wasn’t Challenger – I was at work on that day. Mine was the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 from O’Hare – the DC-10 that lost it’s wing engine. I grew up with planes in my sky. Sure, I heard about them crashing occasionally, but like you said, it was remote. It happened elsewhere. When I got off the bus that day, my sister was in her car, ready to go, and my mom yelled at me, as I got off the bus, to get in and go with her. Something about a plane crash – I figured a little Cessna, or something. Yes, there was a rising pillar of smoke, but that was where the oil tanks were, a big storage farm.
    I’ll never forget two things. One, was the lone landing gear, standing almost pristine in a field of aluminum confetti, one tire pitifully burning. The other was the smell. I had never smelled that combination of smoke, dust,….. and death.
    Life goes on. But I know how you feel, when I wake up with that smell in my nostrils…

    • January 1, 2013 8:48 pm

      Thank you for reading, John. And, wow, thanks for sharing your own story of “innocence lost.” That is unbelievable. No, I don’t suppose that memory, that smell, would ever leave you. I’m sorry you had to experience that at such a young age.

  24. Curly Carly permalink
    December 21, 2012 1:06 pm

    Very poignant post, Angie.

  25. December 21, 2012 1:15 pm

    This is a beautifully sad post, and very well written.

  26. December 21, 2012 1:22 pm

    Beautifully put.
    And even sadder that there is a context this could be put in.

    • January 1, 2013 8:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, El Guapo. I believe Elyse sent you. She’s good people.

      • January 1, 2013 8:46 pm

        Yep. And she says you are too!
        Nice to meet you.

  27. December 21, 2012 1:39 pm

    This is just perfect Angie! I was at my first job when the Challenger occurred. I’ll never forgot my boss emerging from his office in tears. This big man, our leader, sobbing. As I watched the President address the nation about Newtown, I couldn’t help but go back to that moment. You are not alone in your sadness, we seem to be united by tears.

    • January 1, 2013 8:43 pm

      Thank you for sharing this — I hope it doesn’t sound morbid that I like reading about where different people were when they heard the Challenger news. Maybe it’s that “united by tears” thing you mention.

  28. December 21, 2012 2:42 pm

    Really well written and thought out.

    • January 1, 2013 8:41 pm

      Thanks, Ms. Lyssapants. This was one of those posts that you write late at night and then wake up panicked that you put too much out there. I like how I don’t have to worry about that when I write about Jell-O Pudding Pops.

  29. Jen permalink
    December 21, 2012 7:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Angie. I was in 5th grade home sick watching “Price is Right” when the show was interrupted to watch the Challenger takeoff. I was annoyed and tried to change the channel but of course it was on all the channels so I shrugged and decided to watch it. When I saw the smoke and the tone of the newscasters changed I hopped up and called my mom at work. I told her I think something happened and I don’t think she believed me. My fever felt hot and I turned off the tv. I remember the panicking feeling of wondering if the teacher had kids. Your post reminds me of how tragic and sad it was yet so far removed since I knew nobody who would ever be going on a space shuttle. This week watching my little girl at only 7 years old piece together how similar her school is…an hour’s drive down I-84, same grades in that school, same sky on that day….it all hit so close to home for her in ways that I never felt in my own snow-globe until I was so much older. I fear her innocence is lost but still, when I asked her if she felt scared she said no, her principal will protect her. I pray she will be much older before her answer is yes.

  30. December 21, 2012 8:20 pm

    I cried when I thought of my 17-year-old daughter one day sending her daughter off to school with the same pink back pack, the same Barbie lunch box, and the same Crayola crayon 64-pack I once sent her off to school with. Each will have worn the same new outfit and bow in their hair, and shiny shoes brand new. Only her daughter may wear a bullet proof vest under her outfit.

    • January 1, 2013 8:33 pm

      Times are different now for sure. Although, I know there are plenty of kids who have long had to worry about their safety in going to school — in the U.S. and especially in other countries. I just want kids to have the chance to be kids. It’s so cruel and unfair.

  31. stephanie permalink
    December 21, 2012 9:07 pm

    you captured exactly how I have been feeling. nicely written!

  32. December 22, 2012 9:55 am

    This edition of your blog is important. It helps we who read it deal with the unspeakable tragedy of Newtown. I’m a grown man so of course I can’t be seen crying. Instead I tighten lots of facial muscles when I start to tear up, and I try to think of what needs done in my woodshop. And I’ve done this daily in the past week. I think of those parents and grandparents looking at name tags on packages under their Christmas tree.

    . . . I have to stop writing now.

  33. December 22, 2012 11:19 am

    Great post connecting world events and tragedies that occurred in our childhood and tying it up to the loss at Sandy Hook. I also wrote a piece on Sandy Hook from a dream perspective. It was the most difficult post thus far I’ve written. And these days I can’t help but look at my son and think about those children and their families. Actually, the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred on his 3rd birthday. Talk about juxtaposing feelings. The whole day was a mixture of happiness and love for my own child and crying over these children and teachers. It is something that I think is going to stay with us for a very, very long time.

    • January 1, 2013 8:32 pm

      Thank you, Nareen. What a bizarre mixture of emotions wrapped up in a single day. I can’t imagine. Happy birthday to your little guy.

  34. Lynn permalink
    December 22, 2012 1:23 pm

    Beautifully written my friend.

    • January 1, 2013 8:11 pm

      Thank you, Lynn — so nice to have you stop by, my friend.

  35. Rick permalink
    December 22, 2012 3:07 pm

    We were out of school because of snow on the day that the Challenger exploded. A teacher at my school was runner-up to be on board. It was one of those events where most remember where they were when it happened. Unfortunately, several generations have had these events. Pearl Harbor. The Kennedy Assassination.. The list goes on and on.

    • January 1, 2013 8:18 pm

      No doubt, every generation seems to have “its moment” of tragedy. But I have to wonder what it was about The Challenger that sticks with so many of us? Whenever I read about other tragedies that were reported on in the ’80s, not even a spark of recognition hits me — it’s like I wasn’t even there. Yet I can place myself in that 4th grade classroom on January, 28, 1986 like it was yesterday.

      How crazy that you knew a runner-up candidate. Talk about a relief for that teacher.

  36. December 22, 2012 4:54 pm

    That was awesome, Angie! Writing is a wonderful way to express yourself and in the process, feel those feelings. And you do it so well! Keep it up. And keep hugging those kids and keeping them as close as you can. I fear the shooter in Newtown did not get the love he needed in his own life…and there will always be others like him. How do we begin to prepare children for all the things that might happen to them…and why do we have to?
    How can we better the world and prevent such horrific acts?

    • January 1, 2013 8:24 pm

      It sounds like such a cliche, but writing this really did help me to process what I was feeling. Writing as a form of therapy! Who knew? Thank you for commenting.

  37. December 23, 2012 4:52 pm

    I remember watching Good morning America and the challenger count-down live and not understanding what we were seeing, and asking my mom, what happened? Is that only a portion of the rocket, where’s the rest of it? The announcers didn’t know what to say. It’s an image that will always remain with me.

    I too, cried every day, over the news of the shootings. Something on the internet, talk radio, people talking about it, just thinking about it- my kids are 6 & 8. My daughter is in 1st grade. I just can’t imagine. We too, have kept the news from the kids as we don’t want them to be afraid to go to school. Or have them ask “why” and expect us to give an understandable answer, when we ourselves don’t understand the “why.” There’s enough ugliness in the world, and they will find out sooner than later. We decided to let their present world be filled with sunshine and happy thoughts of Christmas. There’s plenty of time for brutal reality later, and we’re not in a rush.

    • December 23, 2012 6:12 pm

      Your last sentence, there, is the most sensible thing i have read about this whole sorry business. Well said.

    • January 1, 2013 8:26 pm

      “We decided to let their present world be filled with sunshine and happy thoughts of Christmas.” So loved this line. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for taking time to comment, Sandi.

  38. December 23, 2012 10:36 pm

    what everyone has said and more. we are close in age and that’s why your blog is such a riot to read. but we also share similarities in the Challenger trauma being viewed at school and confusing as hell and randomly the Children of the Corn giving me diarrhea for about a decade. I haven’t written about Sandy Hook but I am glad that amazing writers like you took the time to. Beautifully done.

    • January 1, 2013 8:09 pm

      Thank you, Alisa! Children of the Corn randomly gave you diarrhea for about a decade? Oh, wow — thank you for this reference. I really needed something to liven up this otherwise dismal blog post. Diarrhea will do that nicely.

  39. December 24, 2012 9:41 am

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It made me remember the Challenger – I was in high school and it was on one of my friend’s birthdays..Anyway, one of the other comments talks about your last sentence and I agree. Each day I’ve been thanking God for my son and as I drop him off I just have to believe I will see him again.

    • January 1, 2013 8:07 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I hate that these thoughts (“I just have to believe I will see him again”) go through our minds now — but I suppose better ours than our children’s.

  40. December 24, 2012 6:45 pm

    Wow! That was powerful. I think we are about the same age, and I agree, you didn’t feel the effect of evil back then the way you do today. The six o’clock news was so “boring” to me as a kid, I don’t even think I knew that bad stuff happened. Now, our poor children are inundated with it. Just tonight, an amber alert came across the television, and I saw panic in my nine-year-old’s eyes. “Mommy, it’s Christams Eve, who would take a child on Christmas Eve?” she asked. I told her it had to be a mistake and that the child would be safe at home soon, snug in his bed, waiting for Santa. I hope what I said is true. I hope that the children of the world can be innocent as long as possible. I agree, the Newton tragedy is horrible.

    • January 1, 2013 8:02 pm

      Thanks, Cheryl. “Boring” is exactly what I’d call news shows of our era. News back then was just a talking head, usually in a brown suit and ugly striped tie. Maybe they were talking about scary stuff, but all I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher saying, “Wah wah wah wah wah wah.”

  41. December 27, 2012 8:29 am

    Beautifully written, Angie. I can only imagine how parents are feeling right now – I can’t bear to watch any of the coverage, still.

    • January 1, 2013 7:57 pm

      Yes, so sucky being a parent sometimes. It can make you crazy if you listen to all the noise of the world. I avoid television and news clips. But then again, I’ve avoided all that for years now. A special shout-out in appreciation to the Kardashians for driving me away from mainstream television. It’s been a blessing to not be a habitual television watcher these past couple weeks.

  42. January 1, 2013 2:42 pm

    A very touching post. I saw the Oprah show the other day with the parents that lost their 3 children in a car accident, and I now feel those little souls following me, urging my to hold my own children closer. And I listen.

    • January 1, 2013 7:53 pm

      I’ve felt rather haunted by one particular child’s photo these past few days — I am grateful for you making me thinking of it in a different perspective.

  43. January 1, 2013 2:43 pm

    Interesting about your snippet from past on the Challenger explosion. I remember as a 10 yrs. old witnessing at 1:00 am in Canada on tv, Neil Armstrong’s lst step on the moon.

    It doesn’t mean a boomer, is airy-headed about dreams and achievement. In fact, our generation is probably tired of telling others…how long the road has been to better life with still, dangers and stones to stumble badly along the way.

    As a Canadian, most of us were horrified at the mass shooting at the children and teachers. There are ways to make a world a bit safer for children now and into the future: don’t give in to a gun-crazy culture. Make owning a gun atypical and socially unacceptable. It is like this in Canada: owning a gun and using a gun, in many social circles in Canada is not typical, it is actually considered a bit strange.

    Unless you live in the Arctic or are living isolated many hundreds/km away from civilization but surrounded by big bears, polar bears. Or if you are a police officer. These are the only 2 situations one needs to have a gun.

    As for hunting: I’ll settle for farm raised venison or bison…which we do have several times a year. I am making this statement as someone who has lived for the past 30 yrs., in 3 different Canadian cities, each with over 1 million people and each with some homicides, drug trading, crime which include shootings.

    As for your corn field bike ride, I would have been scared too: being geo-spatially smart was not my best trait.

    • January 1, 2013 7:46 pm

      I have Canadian friends so I’ve been well versed in what Canada does and doesn’t do and, comparatively, what gunophiles we are down here. I’m trying to keep myself from going down the crazytrain though and actually MOVING up there in the midst of my raw emotions. It’s tempting, believe me.

  44. January 1, 2013 2:58 pm

    Congrats on having this Freshly Pressed. The powerrs that be found out what your loyal readers already knew.

    • January 1, 2013 3:25 pm

      I second that, Dave!

      • January 1, 2013 3:26 pm

        Although, WordPress is pretty familiar with Angie’s awesomeness already.

      • January 1, 2013 9:09 pm

        If I ever find a way to capitalize on the name Angie’s Awesomeness, whether a personal salsa line, infomercial-pitched household product or something, I will give you a cut of the profits.

      • January 1, 2013 7:16 pm

        Very pleased to see this Freshly Pressed, too. Brilliance, as usual.

      • January 1, 2013 9:06 pm

        Super nice of you to stop back to say so.

    • January 1, 2013 7:42 pm

      Thanks, bro.

  45. myninjanaan permalink
    January 1, 2013 4:03 pm

    This was such an emotional read. Hats off to you for such a raw piece of writing!

  46. January 1, 2013 4:23 pm

    Angie! Congratulations on being FP’d. You so deserve it. And the tone here reflects how we all feel, I think: exhausted. Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and watched a woman screeching at her children. I stared at her thinking: “Have you not seen the news? Do you not realize how precious they are?”

    And yet.

    We cannot function that way. Because we’ll grow Bratty McBrattenbergs. And the last thing this nation needs is more entitled kids.

    When are they going to hire you at WP? You know as a spotter for other people’s awesomeness? Because when you get FP’d, we just know it’s going to be good.

    • January 1, 2013 7:33 pm

      Bratty McBrattenbergs — I’m so on the same page there! It’s a fine line to walk, isn’t it? Protect them. But not too much. And I’m the parent who wants my kid to lose the race and not get a pretty participation ribbon. And I want them to forget to do their homework and get an F. And I want them to know there is awfulness in the world to a small degree so that they grow up wanting to do something to help. But geesh. It just sucks that they have to find out that there are people who want to obliterate school children. I can’t think there is anything good that will come of them knowing this. You’re a wise woman (and teacher!), so tell me what to do, Renee! :)

      Work at WordPress? Do they have a 401K plan? I want to hear about health benefits and what brand of coffee they provide, too. I have a great coffee plan at my office right now.

  47. January 1, 2013 4:46 pm

    This is very well written. One question it raises (and fortunately doesn’t try to answer) is – are we safer when we are sheltered from evil (as we once were) or does our modern exposure to evil prevent surprise attacks? Something to ponder.

    • January 1, 2013 7:39 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I am hoping that our country’s reaction to this tragedy will be only positive — but I of course am highly skeptical. The potential to overreact is certainly there.

  48. January 1, 2013 5:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Your words captured so much of how we are all feeling right now. A mix of emotions, both good and bad, that catch us off guard. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. What an ah.may.zing post.

  49. Maria J. Bueno permalink
    January 1, 2013 5:40 pm

    Oh, I am sure it was not very easy to write but it certainly is very touching. I am was able to relate to every single paragraph. Great work.

    • January 1, 2013 7:41 pm

      Thank you, Maria. My blog is categorized as “humor” — so the content of this post is not really within my comfort zone as a writer. I appreciate your comment.

  50. January 1, 2013 5:45 pm


  51. January 1, 2013 6:51 pm

    Hi Angie…what a great post, though it was a sad trip down memory lane. I, too, remember when the Challenger disaster happened. I had always said “when I get married, it’s going to be on a space shuttle”. I believed they’d be that safe and easy to ride by the time I got married. Then the disaster happened and I decided not to pursue riding in a shuttle after all.

    The Challenger disaster was horrific, but it wasn’t deliberate and planned. No one meant for anybody to die that day. Adam Lanza had plans to kill even more kids than he did -it was an evil horror, much like what happened to Adam Walsh.

    Like you, I wanted to shelter my kids and prevent them from knowing awful things do happen. It’s a sad day when their innocence is lost.

  52. January 1, 2013 8:08 pm

    It’s about time. I wondered when this post would show up on FP. Absolutely deserving. Congrats, you’ve done it again!

    • January 1, 2013 8:37 pm

      Aw, thanks, Karen. I don’t know about you, but I think one of the best parts about getting Freshly Pressed is when your blogging buddies stop back to cheer you on.

  53. January 1, 2013 8:51 pm

    I so agree with you that each day, when I kissmy children goodbye and send them away to school, that they will come back! My heart is so sad for the families in Conn.

  54. January 1, 2013 11:54 pm

    So now I’m crying yet again about Newtown …

  55. January 2, 2013 2:13 am

    Very well written and I think you’re absolutely right, there is always at least one thing that happens while you’re growing up that changes your perspectives and makes you see life differently.

    For me, it was the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The general public were very ignorant about the hows and whys of nuclear energy back then, and today still very much are. The media has always played into those fears by giving us one film or another about nuclear apocalypse and so forth.

    The game changer is when something like that actually happens, all of the “What if?” scenarios become “What now?” situations.

    The all news networks were coming into their own by the time the disaster happened and there really was no escaping images of it. I recall with clarity images of helicopters flying bucket loads of concrete to bury the reactor with, their crews knowing full well they’d just volunteered for a lingering death sentence from radiation poisoning. I also recall constant news reports tracking the movements of the radioactive cloud and speculating on its effects.

    I’m still left speechless today when I see images of the city of Pripyat where the reactor is located. So many years later and all the evidence of how quickly everyone had to leave is still there. children’s toys left behind, pots on stoves and plates on tables indicating interrupted meals…. One moment it’s life as usual, the next moment is that nightmare that everyone speculated about but nobody actually thought would happen to them.

    I think what really makes that one stand out for me is that I grew up in part of Canada with a high percentage of Ukrainian descended people, you could see the compounded worry on a lot of faces; it wasn’t just the nuclear issue for a lot of them, it was a family issue. My social studies teacher at school was very proud of his Ukrainian roots and we could all see how much the whole matter was bothering him.

    I wouldn’t call myself any sort of expert on nuclear energy, but I think Chernobyl made me actually want to learn more about the real hows and whys of it rather than just continue to give into the media driven hysteria that surrounds it.

  56. January 2, 2013 2:34 am

    Amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  57. January 2, 2013 2:53 am

    I remember that January day well..I was devestated. Very good piece.

  58. January 2, 2013 3:20 am

    Beautiful post, and very touching. I wasn’t born yet when the Challenger disaster happened, but I do remember feeling that awful unsettled way on 9/11.

  59. January 2, 2013 3:35 am

    I can’t help but wonder sometimes that the more we try to insulate our children from the perils of life that we indeed make them more vulnerable. Many moons ago when we were novice parents with our number one offspring we did the natural thing and tried to shield our son from the diseases in life by using the proper bacterial soaps and being ultra-clean in his care. Then one day, as he grew a bit older, he had a rash of colds and infections. A trip to the doctor revealed that apparently by shielding our child from the onslought of disease we in fact delayed the formation of his natural immunities. Bad things do happen in life and will continue to happen regardless of how safe we want to make our society. Perhaps all we can do when a tragedy strikes that becomes a redundant barrage in the media is talk to our kids… communicate with them that sometimes astronauts do die, that they died doing something they loved, and that their deaths help make space travel safer in the future so that new astronauts will be able to make new discoveries to help mankind. Talk to them about the Sandy Hook shootings.. and listen to what they say… and address their feelings. Give them realistic assurances for their own safety by talking at their level.

    It seems to me if we just shield them rather than communicate with them we might be missing something. Innocense is vulnerability; knowledge is preparedness. Great post, Angie! Makes one think and reflect.

  60. January 2, 2013 4:51 am

    I wanted to click on the ‘like’ button but that somehow seemed inappropriate – there’s nothing to really like about what you’ve written because it’s filled with pain and fear and anxiety. But I do appreciate what you’ve shared, and it comes from a place deep inside that I try to avoid, cos if I look too hard, I’d be crying every hour, every day. Thanks for sharing something that is so painfully close to your heart.

  61. sedrate permalink
    January 2, 2013 6:07 am

    One of my chief annoyances with life is that nothing is promised you. You do your best for years and decades and it can all be taken away from you in an instant. I just make sure to hug my kids and Hubby lots and lots. Hubby has a moderately dangerous job and I always tell him to have a good day/night and don’t die.

  62. January 2, 2013 6:18 am

    Reblogged this on misentopop.

  63. January 2, 2013 6:49 am

    I have come back three or four times to comment and simply do not know what to type. Now I can. Congrats. :)

    You know of the tragedies (however small and local) we’ve had over here. My heart has been ripped out and put back again a few times, shaking me back to what’s important and bringing me even closer to my children. Then Newtown.

    It was quite frankly more than I could take and, mentally, a distraction to all the real life things I had to accomplish in such a short time during holiday chaos. I put off my grief, turned off the radio, and plugged along, actively ignoring the details. The following Monday, I taught Junior Achievement to a 4th grade class. As I asked one of the children which three colors would be most effective on the whiteboard (I chose orange, blue, brown), one child suggested we use Newtown’s colors as a tribute. We hugged. I didn’t cry. We went on as “normal.” When the principal peeked her head into the VIPS room later, we embraced. She was quite stoic, but visibly shaken. I could tell she hadn’t slept a wink the whole weekend. I was still numb.

    It wasn’t until I heard a short piece that included the wake of one of the children a full week later that I broke down. I cried. I cried and I cried. I never cried with Challenger or Columbia, however tragic that was. These were KIDS. And teachers. This isn’t supposed to happen in America.

    Your piece brought me back to that. Thanks, Angie. It’s been hard.

    • January 2, 2013 6:51 am

      BTW, I didn’t notice that you were FP’d on this until I read Karen’s comment above. I still think your brother’s B-day post was a winner. I don’t know why they looked you over.

  64. January 2, 2013 6:56 am

    Reblogged this on DirtNKids Blog and commented:
    Thank you, Angie, for finding the words for the rest of us who can’t. This is what a Fresh Pressed piece is all about, my blogging friends. For all my non-blogging followers, please take the time to click outside of your email window and read the entire post. And go hug your kids and never let go.

  65. January 2, 2013 7:11 am

    A beautiful and poignant post. Thank you for writing it. Shannon is right. Read the entire post.

  66. January 2, 2013 8:27 am

    I am, apparently, a generation older than you, since I was the teacher in a roomful of kids when the Challenger exploded. Even worse, I was teaching in Central Florida, so all we ran outside to see that awful “Y” in the sky overhead. But I already remembered the Kennedy assassination and the Apollo 1 astronauts who died during training. I wonder how many millions in a generation younger than you will remember 9-11 as their loss of innocence? It must happen to everyone since we live in a broken world. I think your children are very blessed to have it happen to them in the home and the arms of a loving and sensitive mother. Being held while you grieve is one way we learn to go on in life despite the tragedies. Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

  67. January 2, 2013 9:18 am

    A beautifully written post. I also remember Challenger and the horrible feeling that even our scientific heroes can be taken by fate. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the recent troubling happenings in our society. We need to remain hopeful, for ourselves and younger generations, no matter what the day may bring. All the best to you and your family. Congrats on being FP!

  68. January 2, 2013 9:24 am

    I was drawn to this post because of the Challenger photo. I remember this day so clearly. I grew up right next to Vandenberg Air Force Base so I think this was an even bigger deal to us. Thanks for the memory.

  69. January 2, 2013 10:06 am

    Thanks for writing this. I was in preschool when 9-11 happened, and I still remember bits and peices of it, but it was always something that could never happen to me, a freak accident. Newton is different- those kids could’ve been my little brother. I’ve spent hours wondering what made him snap, thinking about those kids, their siblings. I can’t imagine.
    It’s a great post, thank you.

  70. January 2, 2013 11:07 am

    I was waiting in a underclass math class — complex variables. another student came in and said, “Did you hear the space shuttle exploded?”

    I didn’t even give it a second thought. My attitude was something went wrong on board after they launched and blew up, and they were still up there and okay. It wasn’t until I got home and saw the news that I realized no, the space shuttle actually exploded.

    Driving to class the next day, I avoided the news thinking that maybe I had dreamed it. No soap.

    It irks me sometimes when people act like NASA is sitting on its ass regarding putting people back on the Moon and on Mars. It took centuries for Europeans to make it reliably and in an established way merely across the Atlantic Ocean. Centuries. Do people have any idea how flippin HARD it is and how dangerous to send humans into outer space? We got used to the shuttle going up practically every week it seemed, and we see movies where actors get sent into space all the time, and we think it’s like hopping on a bus. NASA will get people back to the Moon and to Mars when they are damned good and ready — and when they have the fscking funding to do so.

  71. January 2, 2013 12:44 pm

    Reblogged this on wearashirt and commented:
    A reblog about loss, coping, preservation and cherishing.

  72. January 2, 2013 12:59 pm

    Wow, what a beautifully written article! You have a knack for recalling the joy and innocence of youth. Reading your blog definitely made me nostalgic! I especially love the symbolism of the globe. I wish I could also find a place like that to store people so their purity and innocence remain intact. Actually, I’d love a sacred place like that to escape to, keeping me forever young, pure, and protected.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed, and thank you for bringing me back in time:)

  73. January 2, 2013 2:25 pm

    Surreal isn’t a word I would normally want to use, because that means something real happened. I remember the Challenger disaster happening and it was awful. I live in Florida and remember the dynamics up until that time, that moment. You captured it splendidly from a child’s perspective which will never leave you even when you’re 80. You jogged some dusty “memories”. Those were some Stand by Me moments

  74. January 2, 2013 3:23 pm

    “And each day, when I kiss them goodbye and send them away to school, I want them to believe they’ll always come back.” …Now I”m crying… I have a 1st grader and 3 yr old. It’s unbelieveable that a human being could do that to children.

  75. David kreiman permalink
    January 2, 2013 4:09 pm

    Well said! For right or wrong, the agony you went thru especially in the week following the tragic events in Connecticut are the exact reasons I purposely did not watch or read any of re ensuing coverage. After learning all the horrific details, my mind already processed what a horrifying thing had just happened, what the media would do with it for the upcoming days, and how much tighter I would squeeze my kids for the near future. It was if the week you experienced happened to me in a millisecond. After that, I didn’t need to know anything more.

    On the flip side seeing the movie Parental Guidance yesterday with my young ones was a great way to feel family-happy for a couple hours and beyond.

  76. January 2, 2013 4:18 pm

    Reading your post brought back a lot of painful memories…the tragic loss of lives on the Challenger, assassinations, senseless killings of innocent children…we can only do our best to protect our children and appreciate every minute we have with loved ones. Thank you for a sensitive, thought provoking article. Happy New Year and welcome to the Golden Age!

  77. January 2, 2013 4:59 pm

    Excellent post. Great job. I was watching TV when Challenger exploded. Never was I so surprised or saddened. Terrible day. Your post brings back those memories and the hopelessness I felt knowing they were not coming home. Take care.

  78. January 2, 2013 7:07 pm

    The Challenger explosion was for me, too, the first time I’d encountered death. Like you, I sat with all my classmates watching it unfold, and like your teacher, mine quickly turned off the tv and we moved on.

    To this day I am terrified of space, and I have recurring nightmares about watching that explosion. Sometimes it’s on tv, and sometimes I’m picnicking under the blast when the shuttle explodes and the earth shakes.

    I can’t comprehend the fallout from Sandy Hook. My heart goes out to all the children, across the country and perhaps the world, who lost their innocence and security when it happened.

  79. January 2, 2013 7:24 pm

    I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one who got bothered by the Challenger explosion. I was the only person at my school who deemed bothered by it.

  80. January 2, 2013 7:24 pm

    Love love your blog!!! Thanks for sharing your stories. I live on the other side of the world but I can relate.

  81. Chicago Jill permalink
    January 2, 2013 7:38 pm

    Man, you described this exactly as I remember it, down to the wheeled-in TV. I think I was in third grade. Well done.

  82. January 2, 2013 8:02 pm

    This really touched me. BTW, I watched the Challenger live too. Thank you for writing it.

  83. Surviving the Storm - Walking on a Rainbow permalink
    January 2, 2013 8:14 pm

    Beautiful. You’ve put in to words all that I felt (Challenger) and have been feeling since the New Town Tragedy. Thanks for being you.

  84. January 2, 2013 10:47 pm

    We’re the same age. I remember the Challenger explosion. And I remember walking through the neighborhood, looking for my missing brother (he was asleep in a pile of leaves). I remember the panic that mothers would get when they couldn’t find a child. And now I have children of my own, and feel that same helplessness.
    Touching post.

  85. January 2, 2013 11:23 pm

    Thank you so much for this story – I lost 2 very dear friends in that tragic accident – El Onizuka and Dick Scobee…..I still can’t believe it happened. . . and again, we lost friends in the next shuttle accident, and the next……It’s a risky business. Life is so fragile, enjoy the moment:O)

  86. January 3, 2013 12:20 am

    Beautifully written! Very touching.

    I wasn’t born yet when the Challenger exploded, but I was alive enough to feel the sadness and share in the pain of the victims’ families when the 9/11, the Norway massacre, and the Newtown shooting occurred. Tragedies are now as common as ice cream trucks during summer and yet, we can never anticipate when, where, and how one will occur. It’s a sad reality, but we have to be both strong enough to be hopeful and fragile enough to grieve when one tragedy befalls the world.

  87. Harbin77 permalink
    January 3, 2013 9:01 am

    Thank you for this article and the sharing of your feelings. I am of the older generation and one who lived in a small town where we did not lock or doors at night we could walk, or ride our bikes all over town not worried about anything happing to us. Even when my children were little and in school while living in a lot bigger city we would let the kids play in the neighborhoods and walk or ride the bus too school. Watching the space shuttle explode was bad and hard for everyone to see, but at least we could explain that accidents happen and people die in them. These incidents where some crazy person goes into movie theaters, churches or schools and just starts killing kids and people is defiantly scary and I have no clue on how to stop this except all mighty God steps in and brings us all home. I have 4 grandkids ranging from 17- 3, and the 5 year old is in kindergarten and it is a shame that we haft to worry so much about them growing up and without them or us as parents and grandparents growing up unsafe in this now crazy world.

  88. January 3, 2013 9:46 am

    Reblogged this on Another Day and commented:
    I was in 4th grade too. I will never forget the meanest teacher I’ve ever had, Mrs. Morgan (who I now love and respect; for the record) turning her face to the chalk board so we would not see her cry.

  89. January 3, 2013 9:52 am

    I remember watching the challenger explode on live TV as well. I never felt safe as a child. I always thought something bad was going to happen. Of course it already had and bad things continued to happen but collective moments of shock are something we never seem to forget.

  90. Carolyn Brown permalink
    January 3, 2013 10:38 am

    I was 16 when I watched the Challenger explode on TV. I was in Mrs. Kennedy’s 10th grade English class. I remember she saw me break down and let me go to the bathroom so I could squall. I remember holding my stomach, looking at myself in the mirror, thinking ‘my God – those families.” It bothered me that not many of my fellow students seemed to even care. No one else cried, but then again, they hadn’t grown up around the space program, and I did. My grandfather worked for von Braun in the 50’s-70’s, and even after he died we ate and breathed NASA in our family.

  91. January 3, 2013 10:51 am

    You already know how to make us laugh with your writing. Now, you made us cry. Nicely done. Your best post.

  92. January 3, 2013 11:24 am

    As a GenXer as well, I remember all you write about. It did seem so much more innocent then than now. I can’t decide if that’s because we’re now older and have our own kids to worry about. Or was it truly more innocent than now. Certainly the Challenger explosion was like our wake-up call. And the milk cartons with the faces were haunting. Still I cannot imagine what it’s like to grow up now and have to worry about your elementary school being shot up. I think I prefer the milk carton days.

  93. Nick Pfeiffer permalink
    January 3, 2013 11:45 am

    Angie, your post led me to writing this, which I had thought about writing for some time now.

    I remember the day. Vaguely. January 28, 1986. It was a significant day for those of my generation.

    I was a six year-old Kindergartener at a small catholic elementary school. There were roughly two dozen kids in my class. I don’t recall a great deal of educational build-up to the day. Though, I don’t know how much detail you can teach Kindergartners about the space program.

    I knew the day was special because our class got to go to the second grade classroom where they wheeled in the TV on an AV cart. We were joined in the room by the first grade class. This is big stuff for a Kindergartner, getting to watch TV with older kids. That’s why I knew the day was special. We were going to watch on TV a teacher go into space. I didn’t think that was any big deal. She wasn’t my teacher. But, whatever, we got to watch TV at school and it wasn’t just Reading Rainbow.

    We watched a countdown and the space ship take off. Then explode. We went back to our classroom. I don’t recall any further discussion about it as a Kindergartner. To me that’s why we watched it. In my six year-old mind I thought the significance of the event, the reason why we got to break schedule and go to the second grade room, was to watch a space ship explode.

    I was aware of the news that night and all of the talk about the Challenger. That added to cementing this as a significant event in my mind.

    Years later in upper elementary school and junior high we would discuss significant days in history. Those days “that you’ll always remember where you were.” A teacher would talk about the JFK assassination. For my class it was the Challenger. (That and the time there was a tornado warning during soccer games in my small town on Easter Sunday when I was eight.) We always talked about the Challenger. How it blew up. How there was a teacher on board. How everyone was watching it. But we never talked about why everyone was watching it. That was the thing that never connected with me, though I never really questioned it. Shuttles had taken off before Challenger and after Challenger. We didn’t take time out of our day to watch them. So why that time? Why that day? Well…because it blew up. That was the easiest answer in my mind. The answer I never bothered to think about.

    It wasn’t until years later, as NASA was preparing for the final shuttle flight, that I actually stopped and took time to figure out why we watched that day. The teacher, Christa McAuliffe, was the centerpiece of a complex educational program that NASA had arranged with schools across the country. Her training was documented and disseminated by school teachers in lessons leading up to the event (I assume in more detail to kids older than Kindergarten). Then, collectively, we, as a nation of children, would watch what we learned actually take place live on television. The effort and coordination of this educational program, in 1986, had to be tremendous.

    In reading about the event now, I found a fact that 48% of US elementary school children were watching the event live. It was otherwise not extremely newsworthy as none of the major TV networks covered the launch. But they covered the disaster. CNN was the only network with the footage. Thus this was a boon to the relatively young cable network. And the end of the innocence for many Kindergartners…whether we realized it or not. But I’m glad to know that we didn’t just watch it because it exploded.

  94. veronicahaunanifitzhugh permalink
    January 3, 2013 12:19 pm

    i think i remember…

    sitting on a cold, too small swing set
    in my babysitter diane’s backyard.
    she slid the door and asked me to come inside.
    she asked instead of telling me.
    she was crying.

    i walked in,
    and the television was on.
    the television was never on.

    the screen was filled with empty sky.

    “they’re all dead,” she whispered.

    she put her arms around her two young sons.

    i stood, shifting my weight,
    staring into the blue.

  95. January 3, 2013 1:00 pm

    Very nice I will never forget the day of the shuttle. This is one of those moments for our generation you just don’t forget where you were. Even though we were just children at the time.

  96. January 3, 2013 1:58 pm

    Reblogged this on The Writings and commented:
    Worth reading.

  97. January 3, 2013 8:43 pm

    Wow…wonderful post. So straight forward and eye-opening. Thanks for sharing.

  98. January 3, 2013 8:59 pm

    My friend, I just noticed this was FP’d. Congratulations again. You really found the heart and soul in all of us with it.

  99. paolop1966 permalink
    January 4, 2013 2:39 am

    Reblogged this on Musings and commented:
    Yet another post from a blogger I follow and admire, this will resonate with people of a certain age………..enjoy!

  100. January 4, 2013 5:09 am

    Wonderful post. I know how you feel and you made it possible to put it into words.

  101. January 4, 2013 8:43 am

    This was wonderful for me to read. Nice job.

  102. objectpermanenceblog permalink
    January 4, 2013 9:45 am

    So moving. Thank you for articulating something so difficult. And I’m also a fan of “checking back later.” :-)

  103. January 4, 2013 11:03 am

    Thank you… you took me back to kindergarten when in San Diego (1963-ish?) I heard of the kidnapper who killed a child and they found the body in a ravine. There was a ravine at the end of my street and it haunted me as I played with neighbors on the street. I was also struck by the story of the rapist/killer in Chicago who lined nurses up as spokes on a wheel and killed them. We are forever touched… and it brings us closer to what we love, doesn’t it?

  104. January 4, 2013 5:41 pm

    Wonderful post. Nice job

  105. drjeff7 permalink
    January 4, 2013 9:06 pm

    Congrats on FP. It is easy to see why. You have a great style and captivated me from the start. I remember that day, when I was in fifth grade….Mrs. Foal’s class and they wheeled the big TV cart in…and then boom…that was it, we kept trying to decide about the parachutes, but you couldn’t see any…we figured it out and I will never forget that day. The Newtown massacre is terrible, I have not even focused on it because it is painful. I pray for those people and wonder how and why we live in such a fallen world. People want to talk about gun control and move that into a political frenzy, when all I can think about it the parents and their kids….the kids that survived. How horrible that must be. Just think how many soldiers get PTSD and here you have 5 year olds….5 YEAR OLDS…I hug my kids tight each and every day I have four….a 7 year old, 6 year old and a set of twin 3 year olds. O yeah and there was a set of twins there too, one died, the other survived. I can not even imagine!

  106. January 4, 2013 10:03 pm

    As a (former) educator, the terrifying thing is that innocence is already lost. These babies are forced to do “lockdown” and know far more than they should have to know.

    I just wanted to say on a lighter note, that your blog is awesome. I estimate you’re about 7 years older than me (I was born 84) but I can relate to a lot of the experiences. I have subscribed! :)

  107. icittadiniprimaditutto permalink
    January 5, 2013 5:55 am

    Reblogged this on Pier Carlo Lava.

  108. russelllindsey permalink
    January 5, 2013 12:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde and commented:
    I haven’t visited Childhood Relived in some time, but I’m so glad I did. What a heartfelt post. As a member of Gen X and Y (I believe 1980 is the cutoff date used to separate the two), I can certainly relate to Angie’s post. I still can’t imagine what parents of young children felt having to send their kids back to school after the Newtown shootings.

  109. January 5, 2013 2:45 pm

    I too remember the tv being wheeled in to watch the Challenger explode. And I remember living in NYC on 9/11, walking home over the bridge, watching the towers collapse into themselves, not knowing if the whole world as we knew it was ending right then and there in front of us. And I too have cried, copiously and unashamedly, at the horror that unfolded in Connecticut a few weeks ago. As the mother of two young children, I can’t escape the thought that this could be anyone of us, grieving and trying to grasp at an understanding that will never come because it will never make sense. This was a touching piece of writing, and it hit home exactly where it should. Well done.

  110. January 5, 2013 4:43 pm

    Wow…this gave me chills. The gingerbread houses. I could absolutely cry right this second. You just gained a follower.

    • January 10, 2013 5:10 pm

      Thank you for your comment and for the follow. The gingerbread houses detail will truly haunt me for months (years?) to come.

  111. noahbody123 permalink
    January 5, 2013 9:42 pm

    Powerful and emotional. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I read this.

  112. kimlbayne permalink
    January 6, 2013 5:09 am

    This post gave me chills. I grew up a million miles away from you in my own snow globe of safety, of suburban Melbourne, Australia. I was about to begin Grade 6 when this tragedy happened. I remember vivdly the news features in the lead up to this mission and one of Christa Macauliffes’ children crying and being scared that something would happen to her. I remember the disbelief that was heard in the people who were watching a soaring space shuttle one moment and a firey ball of devastation the next. In Australia we were on summer holidays and about a week off going back. So I was at home with a mother who loved to shelter me from the real world, to the point where I had no comprehension of what this event meant. I had no frame of reference except her drawn, sad face which conveyed so much about the magnitude of this event. It was most certainly the trigger for my loss of innocence that year….a teacher at our school was hit by a car and killed on his way to school a mere 4 weeks later and 4 months after that my father died suddenly. I was 11 years old. Sorry for my waffling, but its amazing how much childhood can be so similar across different sides of the world.

  113. janenoplain permalink
    January 6, 2013 5:51 am

    Reblogged this on serendipity.

  114. January 6, 2013 6:02 am

    **And each day, when I kiss them goodbye and send them away to school, I want them to believe they’ll always come back…

    Gave me chills to read this part..Physical feeling of chills went through my body. How horrific to feeeeeel this as a part of small children, OMG. I thank GOD I never, ever had to feel this way. And yet! my heart goes out to those of you for whom this is the new norm. The new reality because it has come to this. I can’t ask myself anymore why’s..WHY is this happening? Why or how can people do this to innocent children?? Why has it come to pass that everydang! time something of this nature happens ; it is said that said suspect had a lifetime of mental challenges. I can not grasp my mind around that making it alright..It is NOT. But what is the answer to solve it? My list of possible solutions is long..but how to suggest them? And to WHOM? As a Ma/Moms/Momma of 3 beautiful, smart and now grown sons off in college it was my JOB to keep them safe/warm/LOVED/protected…along with their Pops who would’ve hurt a rock if it had harmed our sons. I wonder even as loving Christians how we’d have handled this if it had happened to us. I always try to put myself in the shoes of people who I see something tragic happen to. To feel and share their pain if only for a take a bit of it off their shoulders. It is the compassionate part of me..reading your post brought back so many thoughts from this latest awful incident. I’ve stopped watching or reading it in the news. I just couldn’t take anymore of it into my being..I pray incidents like this STOP

  115. OyiaBrown permalink
    January 6, 2013 10:06 am

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  116. January 6, 2013 1:08 pm

    I am the right age to be able to relate to this post.

    I was in a very small school in Maine during part of my childhood. For some reason my 6th grade class didn’t watch the Challenger launch. I remember asking my teacher about it later on in the day. She threw her hands up and said “It blew up and everyone was killed.” Then she walked away from me. She probably didn’t know what to say. I saw the footage later. These days we would have been bombarded by it.

    Thank you for writing this.

  117. January 6, 2013 3:04 pm

    You don’t need another person telling you that this was a lovely piece of writing, and that you captured the magnitude of the loss elegantly and with a touch of humour, as only you could – but I’ll tell you anyway. Thanks for sharing.

  118. January 6, 2013 3:55 pm

    Congrats on FP! I felt that this one was extra special when I read it, glad others took notice also.

  119. January 6, 2013 4:11 pm

    Honest. Thank you!

  120. January 6, 2013 8:00 pm

    You captured the shadows that lurked in our childhood and brought them to light. Thank you.

  121. January 6, 2013 8:04 pm

    Congratulations on your wonderful piece. It has made me think of many things…. When I was 12, I too was devastated by something terrible– JFK was shot. I still remember when I heard about it in the school stairway and saw the TV coverage when I got home. I remember the first US manned space shoot with Alan Shepard and watched it in school on the TV. What a great day that was!! I am getting old!!! Two more things — I remember taking cover under my school desk in frequent drills “in case” the Russians dropped the big one. (Can you imagine — what good would a flimsy desk be? And I remember people getting fallout shelters built!) Finally, I remember seeing nightly news coverage of soldiers (many soldiers) being killed in Vietnam. You cannot shield the young ones from what goes on. And my belief, from my experience is that they are more resilient than you give them credit for.

  122. January 6, 2013 10:21 pm

    I think we must be very close to the same age because until you got to the crying part, it totally mimic’d my life. I guess that that was how america was back then. I didnt feel especially sheltered until i see kids today and then it is like WOAH! I really think you hit it when you mentioned the number of tv stations back then. Media has blown the whole shelter idea out of the water and i doubt there is any going back. Sometimes i do think ignorance is bliss. Beautiful writing. Great piece.

  123. January 6, 2013 11:50 pm

    Nice article!!!!!!!!!

  124. January 7, 2013 10:26 am

    Beautiful article, Angie! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed again.

  125. ccwebbb permalink
    January 7, 2013 2:18 pm

    Jeez. Good writing. As another little kid who watched the Challenger explode (over and over again on tv), I remember that sharp sense of a bubble bursting somewhere in my mind. But there is an insidiousness to what happened in Connecticut that I feel we were spared when we were little, a loss of a whole other kind of innocence. Anyway, you made me think of it in a different context, so thanks.

  126. January 8, 2013 12:16 am

    I was a young child in the 60’s & into the 70’s. It seemed the world was at war & a place of danger & sorrow. Every night all I saw on the news was graphic black & white footage shot in Vietnam & of the “troubles” in Ireland, bombs & napalm, gunfire, death & burning. Then there were the masses of starving people in places like Ethiopia, their emaciated, flyblown faces staring with glazed eyes & despair at the cameras intruding on their last moments. When I was 3 I sat with my sorrowful Dad & watched police scouring a lonely windswept beach looking for our missing Prime Minister (he was never found). 2 children we knew taken & murdered by a monster never found, hushed phone conversations & Mums not letting us outside to play. By my teens it seemed all we could think about was the nuclear insanity of the US & the USSR & how we were all at risk thanks to govts we could not influence. Yet, here I live in a place far safer than the US, maybe that is why were were willing to look at the world outside & bear witness.

  127. January 8, 2013 8:31 am

    Reblogged this on Giai01's Blog and commented:
    Chia buon

  128. January 8, 2013 4:52 pm

    Reblogged this on 79 Sparrows.

  129. atentativestepblog permalink
    January 8, 2013 6:49 pm

    Wow. I remember The Challenger like it was yesterday. Our whole 3rd grade class, sitting, waiting. The lights dark, the teacher anxiously popping M&Ms. We didn’t know what we were hoping for, we just knew that everyone was excited and we should be too. I also remember the teacher, frantically trying to find the remote control to shut off the TV as we saw the smoke and didn’t know what to make of it all. I remember her tossing her M&Ms in the air in an effort to shield us from what she knew was so horrific that we couldn’t possibly understand. I understand now. I appreciate her efforts. Thank you for this post.

  130. January 10, 2013 5:15 am

    Beautiful written mate..

  131. savingflorida permalink
    January 13, 2013 3:38 pm

    Thank you for this post. I am a child of the same generation. The moment of the challenger explosion I was on the beach at Cocoa Beach, Florida where we walked to from our little school for every shuttle launch. I was five and vividly remember the teachers, the parents, MY parents, and everyone else’s emotions that day. I remember the parts washing up on the beaches. I connected in a grown up way, that I too have tried to protect my kids from. There are very few things which have touched me in the same way, and like you the school shootings are one of them. I had the most sad feeling about the Amish shootings, but a real sense of anger at the Sandy Hook shootings. It’s caused me to pause my everyday to make time for “my small people” everyday, to explain more, and to love deeper; because honestly, who knows when our time is up.

  132. January 15, 2013 2:06 pm

    I was in 3rd grade science class and my very pregnant teacher (who hated me) gasped, then ran across the room to find out what to do. The TV was unplugged and removed. I don’t remember how I found out what exactly happened, but I agree, it was definitely like our 9-11. Burned in my brain. Unlike that teacher, I was teaching when 9-11 happened. This time we kept it on and changed the lesson from Egypt to Afghanistan.

    • January 22, 2013 9:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing this. It’s interesting to read about the different teachers’ reactions to the Challenger disaster, along with 9-11.

  133. January 15, 2013 7:39 pm

    I wasn’t around for the Challenger disaster but I grew up 11 miles south of the space center and my father was out at the center when it happened. It takes a lot of courage to write a piece like this and I thank you for sharing this! I was 12 when September 11th happened and I could not describe to you how I felt that day. Children aren’t meant to see something like that or what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. At one point in our lives we must endure such pain. It’s heartbreaking knowing those children witnessed something so terrible at such a young age.

  134. January 31, 2013 8:29 am

    I immediately started crying without expectation when I had to drop my children off at school the Monday after the shooting. I wanted to keep them with me, hug them and kiss them. Prayers for the parents who have lost their precious little ones.


  1. The Loss of Innocence – a Painful Rite of Passage | Life by kimmy

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