We were all on the floor, and I was sitting next to my friend named Lisa, and my other friend named Beth.
We were all allowed to watch it on TV, because our little school, Foothills Elementary, was just down the street from the Air Force Academy. My teacher was good friends with one of the astronauts. Everyone at the school knew the Air Force guys, because the military is a small, tight-knit community.
We were excited, squirmy little kids as the shuttle took off. We were awe-struck. I remember feeling so amazed, and a little confused, that a rocket was being shot into space.
Then a big cloud appeared where the shuttle had been. I remember we all looked at our teacher. We were 7 years old, and had no paradigm for a rocket launch. Our teacher's hand flew to her mouth. She gasped. That's when we, her students, sensed that something was very, very wrong. She turned around with tears streaming down her face, and ran out of the room. We sat their motionless. I remember looking at the floor, frozen, waiting for a grown-up to come and tell us what had happened. I remember a boy in my class saying "something made the teacher really sad. Something bad happened." And that's all anyone said. We were the quietest, most serious second graders in the history of the world for those few minutes.
Our Principle came in and told us that something very sad had happened. The shuttle had broken, and caught on fire, and the people inside were gone now, in heaven.
This was the first time that I understood the fragility of life, and how lives affected one another, and that it was possible to lose people to death, and to never see them again in this life.
Rest In Peace, brave souls.