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Christa Mcauliffe's Shadow | Yankee Classic

Christa Mcauliffe’s Shadow | Yankee Classic
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“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.

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.”

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.

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One Response 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

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