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Christa Mcauliffe's Shadow | Yankee Classic

Cymbals crashed, and a bass drum rolled like thunder, but Staff Sgt. Susan Arnold’s silver trumpet went silent yesterday as a nation’s grief grabbed her by the throat.

Her cheeks wet with tears, Arnold stopped in mid-stanza as her 539th Air Force Band played “God Bless America” for the families of the seven men and women who left the Johnson Space Center last week on a journey that ended too soon in the sky above Florida.

“The air was so full of sorrow,” she said, “so full of anguish. I had no music left inside me.”

“It was a very emotional service,” he said on a bright day in February in Concord, where people were trying to live their ordinary lives again. “I saw all the teachers that I met in Houston in the beginning. Seeing the Kennedy kids there brought back the Kennedy assassination. Mike Smith’s daughter with her teddy bear, and the jets flying overhead … I went back to my hotel room to write the story, and on the TV they were playing it again and again. I started sobbing, and it all came out. It was good to let it out. But I’m not ready to stop writing about it.”

He has reconciled himself to writing a book and to the chance that some may accuse him of taking advantage of a friend’s death. He feels good about doing the book for personal reasons, for professional reasons, “and, pompous as it may sound, for historical reasons. Because I was close to it and went through it. I felt thrust into this thing that I never expected to happen. I want to do something sort of inspirational and upbeat.”

If he is criticized for his ambition, so be it. He learned something about ambition from Christa. “She was very ambitious in a personal sort of way. She didn’t want to be a hero — she didn’t need that fame and glory stuff. But personally, when she set out to do something, she was determined to do it the best way she knew how. I think she would have been very disappointed if she hadn’t been chosen. She would have been hurt because she had put so much of herself into it.”

He is not ready to let go of the Christa story, nor has it let go of him. “It’s made me see how fragile life is,” he said. “I just had a friend who went away for the weekend, and he didn’t come back to work yesterday. I spent the whole day wondering if he was dead by the side of the road somewhere. Turned out he was home sick, but it really hit me.”

His daughter has asked him for God’s telephone number so she can call and tell Him to send Christa back. And Bob Hohler still finds it hard sometimes to look at the sky. “When I see clouds,” he said, “I see that cloud.”

Tim Clark


Tim Clark


Tim Clark has been writing for Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer's Almanac since 1975. Subjects of his many Yankee profiles have included filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Barbara Tuchman, pediatrician and political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, and World War II General James Gavin. Tim left his job as Managing Editor in 1999 to teach English at ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. for 13 years, but since retiring from that demanding and rewarding profession in 2012, he has continued to contribute articles and book reviews. Tim lives in Dublin, N.H., two miles from the offices of Yankee Publishing, and serves as Town Moderator, a post previously occupied by Rob Sagendorph, the founder of Yankee Magazine.
Updated Thursday, January 28th, 2016

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2 Responses to Christa Mcauliffe’s Shadow | Yankee Classic

  1. BRIanyonezaki February 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

    Aloha my name is brian Yonezaki
    i live in Honolulu
    hawaii. My favorite AMERICAN HERois
    SCHOOl Teacher CHEISTA MCAUliffe.
    And Iread Books the borred from the Library.
    and the bokks stores. iam a Japanese American.
    From hawaii. I am 63 years. old.
    i have a Learn Disbilty.
    my hobies putting together plastic models off
    the pt 109 and the Battleship arizona
    and watching old movies ondvd. my favorite movies the Jofn wayne and jennifer oNEill Movies

  2. mari gilbert January 28, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    Lovely story. She was a great lady. No one could compare to her. Christa was an American hero and a role model for so many.

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