January 26, 2016 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. 7 astronauts lost their lives 73 seconds into flight.

Photo of the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger

The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger

Back then in 1986, I was living on Oahu- with big hair and big dreams. While being an astronaut was not one of them, I couldn’t help share the excitement around the historic event.

picture of Nanci Hersh from the 1980s

Here I am with big hair (my first and only perm!) at work at the Pegge Hopper Gallery in Honolulu, HI

Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire was selected to be on that mission.  


Scheduled to teach a class from space, her students were among the many who watched in horror as the rocket burst into flames in front of their eyes. Chuck Klosterman in his article for AARP about the Challenger disaster, Fire in the Sky writes that “Emotional memories don’t translate through textbooks. “

Explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on January 26, 1986

Explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on January 26, 1986

How we all remember where we were or what we were doing when we first heard about the Challenger, or saw the events of 9/11 unfold on television. Some of us may remember where we were when we learned that JFK or Martin Luther King, JR were shot. A visceral response that becomes a shared history, reminding us of our humanity and our fragility.


My son Nate’s drawing used in our book Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings.

I can’t help but marvel, wonder and reflect, on how we are fleeting stars in this universe, yet have the ability to connect with each other in ways not always known, regardless of time and space.

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