Where I Was at the Time

So my roommate comes into my room. I’m easing into Saturday with a bit of videogaming, so I just grunt hello.

He’s got his phone in his hand and he tells me that Columbia just blew up.

My eyes open. Talk about what our country doesn’t need right now.

My mind flashes back to sixth grade. I’m in a small classroom at a private shool in San Diego. It’s on the ground floor, and looks out over our tarmac playground. It’s a nice day in San Diego, so I’d really much rather be outside. Our books are glossing over Columbus’s “discovery” of American when the speakers at the front of the classroom buzz with their activation.

I wonder who’s in trouble this time. Somebody’s going to the office to have a talk.

The voice from the speakers tells us that the Shuttle Challenger had an accident.

Somebody wheels in a television and the seventh and eighth grade classes join us in our classroom. We watch the videos of the shuttle launching. There’s a sudden puff of smoke, then the grotesque plumes of smoke reaching down towards the earth. Then there was silence.

Then the first words out of somebody’s mouth, “It would only take one terrorist bomb to do that.” Nervous titters go around the room. Grade schoolers accuse “terrorists” of everything.

Somehow, I don’t think that then, any of us really had any idea of what terrorism was.

Today, our ideas have changed. So, when my roommate comes in and tells me the shuttle has exploded, I think “o-ring.” Of course, still, in the back of my mind, there’s a dumb, nagging fear. Not that terrorists have blown up a shuttle–but a fear that somebody, somewhere, is blaming “terrorists” for it.

It’s just a strange period of time we live in.