Christa Mcauliffe's Shadow | Yankee Classic
They ate together, shared their thoughts, talked about their children. “I’m as cynical as the next reporter, and I don’t start gushing over my subjects,” Hohler said. “But I felt some sort of affinity with her. It was never something we talked about, but we were friends. She would call me even when she didn’t have to call me.”
When I last talked to her 11 days ago, Christa was in quarantine in Houston and [her son] Scott was watching a Celtics game in their family room at home. She had called to say goodnight to the children and asked to say hello to me before she hung up. She was proud she had won a beer from Mission Commander Scobee when she bet on the Patriots against the Los Angeles Raiders a week earlier. And she was excited about her space flight.
“Have fun,” I told her.
“I will, ” she said.
As Hohler grew closer to Christa, his respect for her grew, too. “I knew what NASA’S motives were,” he said. “I knew they were selling the space program, and this was a great way to do it. I don’t think they could have found a better person to capture the spirit and win people over. But I never looked on her as a pawn. She went into this willingly and knew all along what she was doing. She knew the risks. She knew that she could die up there. She knew that from the beginning.”
The full moon spattered silver on the choppy waters of the Atlantic when Christa and the crew were awakened at 6:20 A.M. yesterday. The idle orbiter glittered like a space-age steeple on the skyline. A half hour later, the day dawned a pearly white. “Christa, hey, Christa!” photographers cried as she left for the launch pad at 7:50.
“We’re going to go off today, “she said, smiling, showing no trace of the frustration she displayed the day before when she climbed out of the shuttle after waiting six hours for a flight that never flew.
When she reached the sterile room that leads to the shuttle, a technician gave her a shiny Red Delicious apple. She joked with astronaut Judy Resnik for a while, shook hands with the ground crew, and crawled on board.
“Good morning, Christa,” said a controller, testing her headset at 8:35 A.M. “Have a good day.”
“Good morning,” she said. “You too.”
“They were her last public words.
The morning after the catastrophe, after a night with no sleep, a stretch limousine picked up Hohler to take him to the television show. He struggled through the five-minute interview — like many reporters, he finds being interviewed a harrowing experience — filed his story, and flew back to Concord. The city was in a state of shock and mourning, and the world wanted to hear and read about it. His colleagues on the Monitor were trying to cover the story thoroughly, even as they struggled with their own grief and the conflict between the demands of their profession and their reluctance to intrude on the sorrow of their neighbors.
Hohler felt that conflict most of all. He was suddenly in demand. People wanted to interview him in California, in Germany. He could write stories for almost anyone for a lot of money. He could write a book. He was a celebrity, and he was mixed up.
“I felt some sort of obligation to tell people what I knew about her, who she was, what she meant to people,” he said. “But I felt real uncomfortable about capitalizing on the death of a friend. I said no to a lot of people.”
Still refusing to confront his own tangled emotions, Hohler flew to Houston to write his last Christa column on the memorial service at the Johnson Space Center. It was a way of closing the circle for him. He had met her there, and this would be his chance to say farewell. His instinct for the telling detail did not fail him.