I was in Portland, where were you?

January had always been  the dreaded slow month after the whirlwind retail hours I had just survived and I was in sleep recovery mode.  From about October right up to closing time on Christmas eve I survived on about 4 hours sleep per night. I never took time off from work since I lived away from my family and I didn’t have a boyfriend to distract me.  All I really had was my job and I wanted to be successful. While at the store I was busy building displays, receiving vast amounts of perishable product and hiring and training my seasonal crew.  I practically lived in my store, much to the chagrin of my crew.  I tried to hire good trainable people so we could all share the  fun workload.  My year-round crew was awesome and they all stepped up to get additional hours.  The economy was good and people were spending money.  Life was good at Hickory Farms.

My diet during the holiday retail season consisted of random slices of beefstick and Lindor balls. I don’t know if it was the lack of good nourishment, or throwing freight, but during the holidays I usually dropped about 15 pounds.  But then again, I was 27 and I had the metabolism of an 8th grade boy.  I could really eat anything and it wouldn’t matter.  It sort of makes me goofy to look at photos of myself from 25 years ago and think I had a weight problem.  Augh!

On this particular January day 25 years ago, it was the typical morning in Portland Oregon, the usual grey with occasional wet droplets.  I wasn’t in a real hurry to get to work, I was still catching up on sleep and things were very slow at the store.  I remember sitting in the living room, putting on my shoes and socks and I had the TV on quietly, as my roommate was still asleep. I glanced up at the TV, while I was slipping on my socks, at the exact moment that the Space Shuttle Challenger blew apart.  Of course it wasn’t obvious to me at the time what had happened until pieces and parts started falling to the ground.  I knew that it wasn’t good, what I had just witnessed. That was perhaps the understatement of the century, but I was 27 years old and didn’t really have a concept of space and space travel, except this: Gravity always wins.  I ran to tell my roommate what had happened and she was truly underwhelmed.  Now I feel sort of silly waking her, but this was the first national catastrophic event that I could recall.  Sure I was around when JFK was assassinated but I was 3 years old and I don’t remember it.

I left my home and went to work.  Immediately upon arrival I turned on the radio so I could listen to whatever was going to be said.  I don’t know what I expected, but I just knew that I had to remain in some sort of contact.  What I do recall was how deathly slow the store was that day.  I didn’t break $50 in sales the whole day and that was not a good thing.

It’s hard to imagine 25 years ago, until we’re reminded of something momentous that happens.  I always hoped that the Space shuttle crew didn’t know what happened and they didn’t have time to speculate and be scared, that’s all I really hope for any of us.

5 thoughts on “I was in Portland, where were you?

  1. I was sitting in my small Calcomp office in Boise listening to the radio and doing paperwork. It was the first failure of a moving spacecraft resulting in lose of life. I was crushed, didn’t get amything done for a couple of days, it still saddens me.

  2. I was home sick with the flu, it was so sick all I could do when the shuttle blew up was grunt in disbelief and gulp down more fluids. Ugh. That also marks the year in which I stopped smoking. Just simply never picked up another cigarette since. 25 years cigarette free. Hmmm something to think about.

  3. I was living in San Francisco going to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It was a sad day, and a terrible catastrophe too.

    Mostly what bothers me was the reaction of people to the deaths of 7 people who were happy to be exploring a frontier. “It shouldn’t have happened” “It was too great a loss” “We shouldn’t go exploring again until we can guarantee the safety of the crew” etc etc

    I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the pioneer spirit that had people traveling from St. Louis to the Oregon coast, a journey that took around 18 months and cost hundreds and hundreds of people their lives. I am glad that the deaths did not stop the space program completely.

  4. i was 24, and 3 months pregnant with my daughter. at work, one of my colleagues stopped by – told us to come to the conference room, they had the tv on.

    i work in the aerospace industry. the only reason i’m an engineer is because of the Apollo program – i was gonna be an astronaut. the combination of the loss of life, the heartbreak of the impact to the space program, the grim reality that these folks lost the bet against the risk, and the pregnancy hormones? i cried for most of that week.

    and it still breaks my heart. i know two astronauts. they know the risks. and they do it anyway.

  5. I was gathered in my elementary school gym, eagerly waiting to see the launch on TV. It was the first time we would be able to see, available to schools since there was a teacher on board. We had spent the whole month before learning about the space program and reading up on the teacher going into space. I was surrounded by my classmates and remember being so excited, then the explosion happened and we were at first confused and then scared. They ended up sending all of us home early because we were all so upset. We had grown to feel like we knew this young teacher and were so sad that she was now gone.

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