On January 27, 1967 I was nine years old, in fourth grade, and already a space geek. I had followed, with great enthusiasm, the last of the Gemini missions which ended in November of 1966.
The Apollo One fire is probably one of the first events which I remember where I was, and what I was doing when it happened. It was a Friday, and my elementary school in Glendale, a suburb of St. Louis was having a fair which my family always attended. My great Aunt Katherine, who was visiting from Wisconsin had decided to stay at the house while we went to school to enjoy the festivities.
When we returned home my Aunt greeted us at the door with the news of the fire, which she had heard about on the radio. I remember feeling sad when she told us the three astronauts had perished.
In those days the majority of the news we received was from the Newspaper, network TV news, and the radio. There was no cable or internet, so most of the information on the space missions I received were via the newspaper or Life Magazine. I used to spend hours looking over the photos of the astronauts and spacecrafts after each mission.
When I found out Ed White and Gus Grissom were two of the astronauts, I was horrified. These were my heroes, both having flown in previous groundbreaking missions. The stories and pictures in the news stayed with me for many months.
A couple of years ago I visited the place where these men lost their lives to pay my respects. Launch Complex 34 has long been abandoned by the Air Force, and it took a little time finding it. The place was quiet, and peaceful, with only the waves breaking at the nearby beach. I consider it hallowed ground, where the first American gave their lives towards the Exploration of Space.