As Brian Williams said today, "Do you remember where you were today?"…
I was just watching the NBC national news and it all came rushing back, unexpected and with all the emotion, angst, and possibility that was to come…
25 years ago today I was a new college graduate. I had graduated a semester early so I moved back in with my parents briefly, in order to look for where life would take me. It was all very scary. Consistent with most of my life, at least by years, I was not confident. However, what I learned from my father – a man just does it. My Dad and I didn't always see eye to eye, but he made it clear during my high school years that you –will- do it. On the back side we figured it all out.
Also, 25 years ago today, the shuttle challenger was on the launch pad. The world's first school teacher was on the launch pad along with the other astronauts. The countdown was commencing.
I was fresh off several interviews in the Dayton Ohio area where I was living, now with my parents. Several had gone well - some not. I had actually canceled one interview as I was just too intimidated to do it. That stands in my mind, to this day, as my weakest moment. I hate that feeling – I hate that feeling - and it serves an important milestone in my mind. I will never feel like that again. Never.
So as I pursued my passion of software development (that day), I made my nearly daily pilgrimage to the retail computer store. I remember looking at the Apple computer half of the store and transitioning to the – alternate world – and pursued DEC's current offering of DOS compatible offerings. DEC, while never commercially viable in the PC arena, was attractive for their industrial design and feel.. In the corner was a IBM PCjr and the other IBM offerings. It was wildly exciting to me, it was the passion I needed in my career that ultimately would carry me far.
That day, after visiting the computer store, I walked to the parking lot. I got in my car and started it.
The radio came on and I heard the words that the unthinkable had happened. The Challenger had exploded on launch. I raced home (my parent's home) and turned on the TV. I, like everyone, was glued to the TV all day.
Later that night, I got a call. Totally separate from the day's happenings, I was offered my first professional job. An aerospace contractor for NASA offered me an electrical engineering position supporting flight test at NASA at Edwards Airforce Base in CA (where the shuttle used to land). I took the job, making my $29K a year. I thought I was rich.
It would be at least three years (as I recall) before I ever saw a space shuttle land there, right outside my office.