Big Bird, The Space Shuttle Challenger & ‘What Ifs’
Life is full of "what ifs" isn't it? When I read this story I was genuinely astounded at the possible consequences from a past event.
Sesame Street recently celebrated its 45th year on the air. Most baby boomers and their children are extremely familiar with that neighborhood and its well-known residents, including Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Caroll Spinney is the puppeteer and actor who has been those two iconic characters from the very first episode in November of 1969.
Big Bird has been around the world, performed with countless movie and tv stars, musicians and politicians. Mr. Spinney has earned four Emmys, two Gold Records, two Grammys, a Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Association of Television Arts and Sciences and the U.S. Library of Congress declared Spinney, as Big Bird, a "Living Legend". Yup--he's kind of a big deal!
Here is the part of the story that made my jaw drop- - Big Bird was offered a seat on the Space Shuttle Challenger. Yes, the same ill-fated flight which took the lives of Christa McAuliffe, (the first teacher in space) and six other astronauts 73 seconds into the trip when the Challenger exploded!
Star Wars was at the height of popularity then and NASA wanted to get more children interested in the space program. However at 8 feet tall, they just couldn't make the room needed for the costume, so Spinney and Big Bird were both spared from that tragedy. In a strange twist, they were taping a Sesame Street episode that day and when it was about to take off they stopped working and watched the broadcast on all the studio monitors. When the explosion occurred, there was abject shock, profound sorrow and Spinney said his "scalp crawled".
Can you just imagine that "what if"? Wow!