The Surly Silk Screener

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Jan 28, 1986 8:39 AM / 51-73 S Hinds St, Seattle, WA 98134, USA

On the morning of the Challenger space shuttle flight, I was starting my work day at THE Graphics Company on Hinds Street in Seattle’s SODO district. By that point the Challenger had been grounded for weeks; the shuttle flight had been delayed so many times that I lost count. If it wasn’t the weather, it was a possible mechanical threat to the shuttle that kept it on the ground. Like many, I was ready to hear that it had finally taken off and headed into orbit.

The silk screener at THE Graphics Company worked alone, in a room up the stairs and away from the general work area. He was a Seattle native, union-waged, and really good at what he did. He was also a surly guy, negative as negative could be. There was nothing good to say about anything, or anyone. Despite that he had the only TV in the shop, so that morning a couple of us headed upstairs to watch the launch at 8:35am Pacific Time. A minute later it lifted off. “Finally,” I said to the coworkers. “I’m so happy to see that thing get off the ground.”

“Yeah, but it’ll probably blow up now,” said the surly silk screener.

The other worker and I just rolled our eyes and left. We were accustomed to his “half-empty” view on life, so we moved on and started working on the day’s signage. Almost two minutes later the surly silk screener came barreling down the stairs.

“See? I told you it would happen! It just blew up! I’m not kidding.”

My first thought – briefly – was that he was full of it. We headed upstairs to see what happened on the TV. Not long after that we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. There, in full color on KING 5, was white smoke in the sky. Lots of it. There was confusion among the announcers as they described what we were already seeing, while they refrained from telling the world what we already knew.

We had just lost an entire shuttle crew to an explosion, and even if the surly silk screener was only kidding, he had predicted their end. It was sick that he was right.

And a day I will never ever forget.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster

Story originally posted on Intersect – 7 November 2010

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