Vol. 11


The Day America Fell Silent

January 28, 1986; Huntington, New York, USA"The Day America Fell Silent" illustration: We see the back of a young girl as she stares at a television screen.

Some say that you never forget where you were and what you were doing on a memorable day such as 9/11 or the day of the Boston Marathon bombing or, more recently, the Paris attacks. My mother is no exception. This particular day, January 28, 1986, was also her birthday.

It was winter, and the ground was covered with freshly fallen snow. Since it was a snow day for my mom, she stayed at home and did what normal kids do: play outside with friends or read or sit by the fire. It had recently been announced on the news that the Challenger, the first spacecraft to travel up into space with a teacher inside, was just about to be launched. NASA had been delaying its launch, but they decided to launch it on this day because they thought it was ready now.

Everyone in the household huddled around the gigantic television, eagerly waiting to see how the launch went. But no one expected what was about to unfold. As the spacecraft successfully lifted off the ground, cheers, hugs, and kisses were given all around. People shook hands, and some cried.

Nobody could have predicted what would happen next. Not yet out of sight, the Challenger gave a sudden jolt but kept traveling up into the sky, trying to continue its voyage. Many people were confused, but shook off their confusion and assumed this was all part of NASA’s plan.

All of a sudden, the spacecraft erupted into a fiery explosion, sending bits and pieces of debris thousands of feet down to the ground. This atrocity was being filmed and broadcast live all over the country, and no one could do anything to stop it now.

Everyone in my mother’s house abruptly stopped celebrating and turned back to the television screen to observe the horrific scene. They all watched with gaping mouths resembling the painting The Scream. So many mixed emotions were being strewn about the room: first, confusion — and then sorrow. Then the room was filled with an eerie, melancholy quiet.

Everyone in America fell silent.


Sarah Elmore; North Carolina, USA

Illustrator: Natalie Vanderschaaf; Colorado, USA



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story and/or illustration in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


Return to Vol. 11 Stories page



Built by Hen's Teeth Network