Kind of a strange thing happened the other day — there was this bright thing, an orb-shaped object, in the sky. It emanated a little warmth and I thought it looked familiar … oh, yes! The sun.
We may have had more than our share of rain in December and early January but the last couple of weeks we settled in to that fog in the morning, haze in the afternoon, fog at night pattern. It was so shocking to see the sun that I almost had to get dark glasses, the glare on the road was so bright.
Of course with the sun peaking out from time to time I’m just afraid of the one day that it warms up enough to set the almond trees to budding. Then my frequent trips along Highway 120 between Escalon and Oakdale, and on Santa Fe between Escalon and Riverbank will be intermingled with the sneezes that spring always seems to bring … even though, like many transplants, I never had any allergies until moving to the Central Valley.
On a more somber note, this past week marked the 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion, the ill-fated space shuttle mission that was to include the first teacher in space. While it’s mind-boggling that it has been that long since the tragedy, the fact that it was the quarter-century anniversary brought about a little more coverage than just a brief mention of the long-ago historical event. It was, for my generation, one of those key ‘where were you?’ moments, as was 9-11. This year will also be 10th anniversary of that fateful September day.
For the Challenger, the memory is seared in my brain for a couple of reasons. I was early in my journalism career, and was actually the news director at a small radio station near my hometown in upstate New York. At that time, 25 years ago, every space shuttle launch was carried live, whether it was on TV or radio. Later missions seemed to go off with barely a mention but back then, most people were watching. The radio station carried them all live as well so we were on the air when the shuttle exploded. One of the schools in the county that we covered was also actively participating in that mission; one of the classes there had been selected to be part of teacher Christa McAuliffe’s ‘teaching from space’ and had been getting ready for the exciting, history-making event for weeks leading up to the launch.
Knowing the whole school was tuned in — as were many classes of schoolchildren across the country — made what happened seem that much more tragic and personal.
The superintendent of the school was able to find a way to help in the healing process, with the school starting a penny drive and all students, not just those in the class that were supposed to talk with Christa McAuliffe throughout her journey, bringing in pennies and any spare change they could from home.
The effort took off statewide and even got national news attention as the ‘Pennies for Space’ fund drive, and all the money raised was donated to NASA to go toward helping build a new shuttle to replace the Challenger.
Empowering her students to do what they could, contributing even just a little bit to the shuttle replacement fund, provided a concrete way for students to be part of the recovery.
I have long since lost touch with that school superintendent but have never forgotten how important it was for the kids in that school to feel like they had made a difference.
And isn’t that what most people want? To know that somehow, somewhere along the line they matter? There are countless possibilities throughout the day to make a difference, we just have to recognize the opportunity and be ready for it. You can offer a helping hand, say a kind word, even something as simple as a smile may be just what someone needs.
As we look around and see tragedies of all scopes splashed across TV, newspapers and radio, from political unrest leading to deaths in a place as far away as Egypt to the dredging of the Delta-Mendota Canal in the search for a young kidnapping victim in nearby Patterson, it makes me all the more aware of the need to be a good example. We hear so much today about civility that perhaps it’s time we started taking it to heart. Maybe we could all care just a little bit more about each other.
It probably won’t stop a military coup anywhere, but it could make a difference in the life of someone you know.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.