We all have anniversaries of events that impacted our lives in some way. This time of year is an odd sort of trifecta for me.
January 23, 1968: The USS Pueblo was attacked.
January 30, 1968: The Tet offensive kicked off.
I was deployed and involved in both, although time and fading memories (and THIS venue) preclude me from offering up iffy details and/or even good Sea Stories.
The third item is bit clearer and far more recent…
On Jan. 28, 1986, 19 years and a day after the Apollo 1 fire, NASA’s space shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff due to an O-ring failure in one of the orbiter’s twin solid rocket boosters. The malfunction allowed hot gas to escape the rocket booster, ultimately causing the shuttle’s external fuel tank to explode.
While working at the NASA Tracking Station on Kauai during the early ’80s I worked on the first 8 or 9 Space Shuttle missions. In the run up to one of those launches we were visited by a team of astronauts for a “meet ‘and greet”. One of those visiting was Ellison Onizuka. I knew from his bio that he had been an AF test pilot before becoming an astronaut so I asked him, after more than two adult beverages apiece, how he thought it would feel to just ride the shuttle after flying jets.
He paused and offered this: ” How would YOU feel if YOU sitting on top of a huge potential bomb waiting for someone to light the fuse?” Okay, that IS a paraphrase rather than a direct quote, but the gist is valid. We all laughed.
So every year about this time it is hard to ignore the flood of memories, and memories of memories. I’ll be breaking my alcohol fast one day this week and raise a toast to those who dared and for those who did their duty.