Twisted Memories

While flipping through the channels when I could no longer find a college football game to watch, I ran across a re-run of Saturday Night Live while the group U2 was performing some song I’d never heard. I was immediately transported back in time to the painfully significant year of 1986.

The big book at the time was Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” and the antics of little Gage that got him killed. That fictional boy reminded me so much of my 2 year old son Josh, that I had more than a few rough nights worrying about him getting himself hurt in some equally horrible way. The big album that year was U2’s “The Joshua Tree,” which was significant enough in that it had a title that included my son’s name and included some damn good music, but a road trip for my job that year also found me driving through The Joshua Tree National Park in Arizona.

But probably the biggest thing that happened in 1986 occurred somewhere between seeing the sign for The Joshua Tree National Park and reaching our final destination in Las Vegas: The announcement on the radio of the tragic “accident” that destroyed the Space Shuttle Challenger during take-off for it’s mission to prove that even “average Janes” like Christa McAuliffe (and later, perhaps, space-head dreamers like me) could go into space.

I’ll never forget my thinking, up to that point, that these weird linkages had to be an omen of some kind, and how this feeling seemed to be confirmed through this loss that hurt me almost as much as losing my son would have. Even now, the pain of that memory is almost more than I can bear.

The crew of Challenger mission STS-51-L, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair, Mike Smith, and El Onizuka, died tragically in the explosion of their spacecraft during the launch of STS-51-L from the Kennedy Space Center about 11:40 a.m., EST, on January 28, 1986. The explosion occurred 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in one of two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

The crew of Challenger mission STS-51-L, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair, Mike Smith, and El Onizuka, died tragically in the explosion of their spacecraft during the launch of STS-51-L from the Kennedy Space Center about 11:40 a.m., EST, on January 28, 1986. The explosion occurred 73 seconds into the flight as a result of a leak in one of two Solid Rocket Boosters that ignited the main liquid fuel tank.

You know, time and strong emotion really can seriously distort one’s memories. After writing the above – which I swear is exactly as I remember it – I decided to search for some images to include with this post. That search has exposed some weird twists in my memory. Although the Challenger was in fact destroyed on January 28, 1986, some of the other details seem to have been corrupted. While the fact that “Pet Sematary” was actually published in 1983 can be explained by my having read it later (most of the books I read back then were grabbed from what I could find while waiting in airports, and my copy did have an updated cover image), I was definitely off on the other details.

sk-petsemateryprook

First of all, I couldn’t possibly have driven through The Joshua Tree National Park, since it’s located in California instead of the parts of Arizona and Nevada we traveled through. So how do I remember passing a road sign that stated that we were entering the park? I do not know, but I did find what I think is an image of the actual sign that refers to the stretch of road we were on as the “Joshua Forest Parkway.”

The Joshua Forest Parkway

But most disturbing is the fact that U2’s “The Joshua Tree” wasn’t released until March 9, 1987. I swear we were listening to music from that album when the broadcast was interrupted with news of the Challenger disaster. The only way I can make sense of this is to surmise that, somehow, my mind latched onto the title of that album in an effort to establish a mystical connection between these events. That’s crazy, I know. But I’ve never claimed to be completely sane, have I?

U2 The Joshua Tree Cover

But I’m still kicking around, and both Stephen King and U2 have gone on to have great careers. Even the space program has survived, despite having suffered another tragic loss when Columbia went down. I guess my dream of being a civilian astronaut just ain’t going to come true. But the important thing is that my son Josh is alive and doing quite well. In fact, his first child was born just the other day – a beautiful and healthy little girl named Leilani.

Leilani 3

They say that time heals all wounds. But they also say that time wounds all heels. I guess that both are true in my case. I’m still searching for answers, and the melody that still goes best with my search is from U2’s “The Joshua Tree”:

U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run. I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

I want ice water.

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2 thoughts on “Twisted Memories

  1. that is so interesting, because my own memories of the challenger explosion are really messed up. I could swear I was 2-3 years younger than math says I had to be. I remember being in the 2nd grade class room — but it had to be 5th grade!

    • Thanks David. I read your post on the matter. Both it, and your blog, are pretty cool! I’d love to get email notices when you post something new (hint, hint).

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