I remember watching the start of the shuttle program. A quick review of Wikipedia confirms what I remember, laying in the floor of my Grandfather's home with him beside me as we watched the launch on TV. I recalled it being just he and I and it being pretty early morning (it was April 12, 1981 at 7AM) and being a kid I was obviously facinated (I would have been 8 at the time).
For some reason on January 28, 1986 I was home from school. I remember it was around lunchtime when my mom called up to me and said something was wrong with the shuttle. I remember her saying, "I think it blew up." I watched the news covereage in disbelief for the rest of the day.
Flash forward to February 1, 2003. I was trying to motivate myself to get back into my workout routine. I had lost around 70 pounds and fallen off the wagon (still haven't made it back on) so I was riding my bike around our apartment complex. I rounded the northwest corner of the complex and off to the south I saw a HUGE flaming object which for some reason I took to be an asteroid. I had seen another shuttle re-entry and should have IMMEDIATELY made the connection, but for some reason I didn't.
I remember thinking wherever that thing finally hit it was going to be pretty horrendous. I watched it for a few seconds and noticed smaller pieces breaking away and was relieved that it was breaking up. I watched it break up and the pieces falling to Earth, then hopped on my bike and rolled into the garage. I went up to tell THE WIFE what I had seen when I noticed on the TV a shot of mission control and heard the voiceover announce they had lost contact with Columbia.
Let that sink it... I knew before Mission Control did that Columbia broke up and fell to earth losing all aboard.
Today, I watched the shuttle Atlantis launch on the final mission of the shuttle fleet. Instead of lying on my belly in front of a TV, I watched standing at my desk at work streaming from NASA.gov. I have no idea what we plan to do for our next phase of space exploration (and apparently neither does our government but as fouled up as things are tha tis probably for the best) but I pondered on being there for the begining and end of a piece of American history.
Were were you, when these events happened and have you talked to your kids about how they are watching history unfold every day?