Turns out it was awesome, but in the literal sense.
Seventy-three seconds.That's how long NASA's space shuttle Challenger was in the air before an O-ring failure turned a routine mission into space into a tragedy on January 28, 1986.
Twenty-five years after NASA's first fatal in-flight accident, the memory of the Challenger disaster is still strong.
CNN's John Zarrella was at Kennedy Space Center to cover the launch - the first from NASA's new launchpad 39B. "I just remember seeing the cloud of smoke and what looked like fireworks coming out from the vehicle," says Zarrella. "We were all just looking at each other wondering 'OK, what's happened here?'"
CNN, still in its early years, was the only network to carry the launch live that Tuesday. Among those tuning in were children in classrooms across the country, watching what was to be a milestone: Christa McAuliffe, the program’s first teacher in space, lifted off as a member of the crew.
And we watched it live, and we all looked at each other, and asked the teacher what happened, and she shushed us, because she didn't know either. None of us did. I remember watching the booster rockets fork off in a V, going in different directions, and the thing cracked up.
And they were gone, the whole crew. Just like that. That was my first introduction to the concept that really, really bad things happen to really nice people, and there's not anything you can do about it. Sometimes, things just go horribly wrong in life and people don't come home again. Ever.
Yeah, by February we were all fine, cracking really bad jokes about the accident ("No, I said BUD LIGHT!") and dreading Valentine's Day.
But I remember my mom asking me if I was okay when I came home from school, and I said that I was okay, and I did my homework and ate dinner, and I remember thinking "Well, I guess there is a reason bad things happen" but for the life of me I still haven't quite figured out why that is. Anybody in my generation, that was the event you remembered from school, you remember seeing it unfold live on TV and the entire country going..."Crap."
Now, 25 years later, I'm reminded the space shuttle program is all but over. We thought it was over back then, too. Life goes on.
But you remember that for some, life doesn't go on.