Jenna Resnik, 13, is the niece of Judy Resnik. Jenna shares what she’s been told about her Aunt Judy and how she focuses on triumph in her own life.
Thirty years ago, my aunt, Judy Resnik, and the other six members of the Challenger crew were lost to this world. They had been trying to brave their way into another world when they perished. However, their memories and the path they created to that other world live on. Oh, and the other world? It’s known as outer space.
Judith Arlene Resnik was born on April 5, 1949. She was extremely smart and caring, both inspired and inspirational, and an all around good person who happened to have a head full of very frizzy, curly hair. She loved to play piano and cook, and she was great at both of them, as well as almost anything else she tried. She was a math whiz who scored a perfect 800 on both of her SATs. She attended Carnegie Mellon University, where she majored in engineering. Now, that’s only a tiny piece of her life as I know it, but I think it sounds great, and I look forward to continuing to learn more about who she was outside of the label ‘astronaut’.
Over the years, many people have told me that I look like her, act like her, am a mini her, etc. To this day, she is still my number one role model. Every time I sit down at the piano, I can almost see her smiling down on me. Even though I never got to meet her, and even though I’m super jealous of the people who did know her, I think she’s a wonderful person. One positive character trait that we share is persistence. Because of their persistence, I just know that she’s so proud of her brother (my dad) and all of the other families of the crew, especially for creating Challenger Center for kids to explore opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Every time people recall the accident and where they were at the exact moment the shuttle blew up and everyone in the room is busy wiping away their tears, I find myself thinking, “Wow, when they signed up to be astronauts, they knew there was a potential risk of death, but they went on with it anyway. They died doing what they absolutely loved most, and that’s more than many people can say.” I must admit, seeing the piece of Challenger housed in an exhibit at Kennedy Space Center was quite a jarring experience, but through my tears, I realized that I was still thinking about how amazing it was that this seven member crew would risk their lives for the job they loved and to explore beyond the limits of the sky. I continuously wondered why people wouldn’t just recognize the positive at some point instead of just boohooing because they ‘died a horrible death’. Someday, I hope people realize how great they were regardless of how, where, and why they died.
Similarly, whenever I tell people my connection to Aunt Judy, their first response is, “Awww, I’m so, so sorry. Poor you, growing up with one less aunt…how does it feel having a family member die like that?” They are always so focused on the accident and the deaths, rather than what the crew accomplished and how their families ended up carrying on their legacy. While they ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ about the tragedy, I like to be positive and focus on the triumph and the memories that are being created every day because of this crew’s legacy.
So here’s my message for you, everyone: Go do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Create a life for yourself that you will love with all of your heart, and never lose hope or hesitate to step outside of your comfort zone, because in the end, the outcome, whatever that may be, is rewarding and leaves you with a good feeling in your heart. You can shape your destiny and create your future, if only you try. Go find your ‘other world’, and remember that if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. The sky’s the limit, people! Lastly, during all of your future endeavors, don’t let what anyone else thinks get in your way, because as Aunt Judy said, “It is very important for you to realize that people who you consider to be heroes are really quite like yourselves. Only hard work and perseverance will help you to succeed at any venture–there is no magic of being more ‘special’ than someone else.”