Friday, January 28, 2011
Children, now grown up, remember Challenger

The explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, became the “Where were you?” moment for a generation of schoolchildren who watched the shuttle launch live on TV.


Children and their teachers felt a special connection to the mission because the shuttle was carrying Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire social studies teacher selected to be the first teacher in space.


We asked the CNN audience to share their recollections of the tragedy 25 years later. Though people of all ages mourned the loss of the seven astronauts, we were especially touched by some of the memories of iReporters who witnessed the accident as children.


Clarence Searles – Age 8


All the schools on the McGuire Air Force Base were named for space shuttles, and Clarence Searles was a second grader at the Challenger Elementary School.


His class had another tie to the mission: Through a project with NASA, the young students had harvested tomato seeds from plants they had grown in class and sent them up with the astronauts to learn how the tiny plants would grow in space.


“We were all very excited to watch,” said Searles, 33, an IT supervisor in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Searles, who loved planes and wanted to be an astronaut, remembers sitting with the other children in the classroom to watch the launch.


“Pretty much everything had stopped,” he said. “When the tragedy happened, it was a huge letdown to everybody. Being military families and everybody’s parents being Air Force, it was very close to us.”


Kathryn Stuart – Age 7


The Challenger liftoff was Kathryn Stuart’s first memory of a big news story. She was a student in Mrs. McLaughlin's second-grade class at Blankner Elementary in Orlando, Florida, about an hour’s drive from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. Her class watched the takeoff from the school playground.


She remembers looking up at the sky. Then another teacher turned to hers and said, “I have a bad feeling about this.”


“And then, I don’t know how many seconds later, it blew up,” says Stuart, 32, an event planner in Central Florida. “We were all trying to make sense of it. They took us off the playground as quickly as they could and we went back to class.”


Charles Atkeison – Age 15


Charles Atkeison was just a sophomore at Berkmar High School in Lilburn, Georgia, but he knew more details about the space shuttle program and Challenger than many adults. The young space buff had frequently contacted NASA’s Kennedy and Johnson space centers for documents to track shuttle flights, all of which he watched on TV. He even exchanged letters and spoke with Challenger mission specialist Judith Resnik several times on the phone.


That morning, his chorus class had a TV tuned in to CNN. The shuttle rose from the pad. Then applause broke out around him.


“It’s ascending into the deep blue skies … it was so beautiful watching,” said Atkeison, 40, now a freelance space journalist in Alpharetta, Georgia. “It was a normal looking shuttle launch all the way up, until it disintegrated.”


When the white cloud burst covered the screen, silence fell in the classroom.

He knew something was wrong – just not exactly what. He can still hear NASA public affairs officer, Steve Nesbitt, saying seconds later, “Obviously a major malfunction.”


He pulled his chair closer to the TV to get a better look. Then the bell rang, “and I’m not wanting to leave, but I had a math test. I don’t know how well I did. All I remember thinking was, ‘I’ve got to go home.’”


Atkeison says he hopes the 25th anniversary will be an occasion to think about how Challenger became “an inspiration for learning.” In the years following the tragedy, families of the crew began the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and created 48 learning centers that take children on simulated space missions, furthering the mission of the fallen astronauts.


“We should focus on how important it is to teach our children science and math, and not so much on mourning those lost,” Atkeison said. “Challenger's seven astronauts did not look for attention, but [were filled with] the excitement of what science and space can do to improve our way of life here on earth.”

January 28, 2011
Click to view ksn11's profile

I was sitting in freshman English class when the principal interrupted classes over the PA system and announced the disaster.  Up until that day I had dreams of being a shuttle astronaut.  That was my 15th birthday and my dreams changed that day.

January 28, 2011
Click to view Bene66's profile

I was a 5th grader in NE Alabama. We were watching with Science teacher Mrs. Carroll. For over a year we anticipated this mission, because our teacher was a candidate for the Teachers for Space mission and actually made some of the cuts. She had talked this mission up to us for over a year. When it blew up many of us were crying and she was boo hooing.

January 28, 2011
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ksn11 - I don't think Christa McAuliffe would have wanted you to change your dreams because of what happened to her. You should have become an astronaut.

January 28, 2011
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I was sitting in the first seat, 6th seat deep, in music class when the annoncment came over the PA system. The school didn't have cable hook up. My music teacher, a nasa buff, made following the Challenger apart of the class. I remember hearing on the PA about the explosion, I buried my face in my hands, and wept.

January 28, 2011
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I was a 5th grader at Prince of Peace Elementary School in Hollywood Florida.  I remember having us go to an assembly, and I made a comment about what happened?  It was insensitive looking back at it now, I asked did the space shuttle blow up?  My heart was in my stomach and still is everyday I think about the tragedy.

January 28, 2011
Click to view markuscre's profile

I was attending 1st grade in Alaska. We were all gathered in the library watching when it happened. I to had dreams of being an astronaut. I don't think it discouraged me but I remember being very very very sad and upset.

January 28, 2011
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I was standing in my front yard in Orlando holding my mom's hand watching the Challenger streak up and across the sky.  I was only 5, but I remember it clearly.  The continuous white cloud left behind suddenly became a white puff with streaks shooting down from it.  My mother said, "Oh, my god!" and we ran back inside to tell my father who was sick on the couch that the space shuttle had just exploded.  As the words were leaving her lips the announcer on the television said, "We are obviously experiencing serious technical difficulties..."

January 28, 2011
Click to view leochick's profile

I was a senior in high school in Upstate NY, and was standing in the lunch line when the cashier told me that the shuttle had exploded.  She was stunned.  It was too surreal and horrible to be believed.

January 28, 2011
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I was sitting in my 7th grade science class watching it. When the shuttle exploded my teacher ran to the tv and shut it off. it was apparent what happened but he didnt talk about it and started teaching a lesson. I remember seeing him crying.

January 28, 2011
Click to view mikew1977's profile

I was home from school that day, it was so cold and icy. It was obviously cold enough in Florida to cause the O ring to fail on the booster rocket. I remember walking 2 doors down to tell my friend. For years after I kept posters and stickers from that mission because I was in the Young Astronauts program...

January 28, 2011
Click to view ccmarzan's profile

I don't remember the Challenger exploding because I was born after it happened, but I was named after Christa McAuliffe and I am honored to be named after a hero like her (though all 7 astronauts on board are heroes if you ask me). Such a tragedy.

January 28, 2011
Click to view RogueMoon's profile

STS-51L was my first memory of space exploration.  I was 13 and in junior high in Osage City, KS.  I would later become an aerospace engineer working for Rocketdyne, where I proudly work today.  We remember those who nobly serve in the still hazardous business of reaching low-earth orbit.  We must never let tragedy deter our nation from reaching higher goals and investing in space.

January 28, 2011
Click to view WildTatonka's profile

I was in 10th grade and in a media room in the back of the library. When I saw it, I turned and yelled into the library that the Space Shuttle just blew up.  Everyone came running.  No one seemed to mind that I yelled so loud.  Some many sad faces.

January 28, 2011
Click to view nance69's profile

I had just finished a mid-term in US History when our principal came onto the intercom system. "We want all teachers and students to be aware as they go home and turn on their t.v.s and radios that the space shuttle has exploded. There appears to be no survivors." For me, the event changed everything. I spent the next year reading everything I could about the crew, space flight, watching the commission hearings. I was fortunate to be able to do an independent study project my senior year of HS. What were the most important things I learned? Life is a series of calculated risks - nothing ventured - nothing gained. There can be amazing strength and possibility in diversity if people seek common goals and open themselves to learning. What makes a hero is the measure of their life and not the manner of their death, And, perhaps most importantly - life is about exploration - about possibility and is meant to be lived to the fullest. There is always loss and tragedy - but there is also great hope and possibility. So, thanks to Dick, Mike, Ron, Judy, Chritsa, Ellison, and Greg. The mission continues in the challenger center - and the lessons continue in the many young lives that were touched and transformed by each of you...

January 28, 2011
Click to view starlight196's profile

I was a sophmore and in my computer class when the teacher returned after being called out..she immeadiatly went over and turned on the TV so we could watch it.  I got home very fast at lunch and called my grandparents (they lived in Fl) and cried while my gm told me what she'd seen/heard.  VERY sad day.  I can not watch the video's of it now as it makes me want to cry etc. 

January 28, 2011
Click to view tschmitt300's profile

I was 7 years old in 2nd grade and still remember it like it was yesterday.  Not the launch itself, because my school did not have the cable hookup to be able to watch it live, but coming home from school.  I wasn't feeling well, but was very excited to learn about the launch from my mom.  What I found instead upon entering the house was my mom sitting on the couch watching the news and sobbing heavily with a space shuttle book she had bought me sitting in front of her.  I'll never forget the look on her face as she tried to explain to me what had happened, and I'll never forget seeing the news footage shortly after for the first time.

January 28, 2011
Click to view Fluttergirl's profile

My entire 6th grade science class was watching it live on television. Teachers were crying, kids were crying... it was awful. A couple of months earlier we had taken a field trip to NASA in Houston. I remember praying for the astronauts and their families. What a nightmare.

January 28, 2011
Click to view LiberalNewz2's profile

I was in 8th grade when a few friends burst into the class yelling "the Space Shuttle just blew up!!" I thought they were kidding at first. That night and in the following the news showed the footage over & over again. It was a terrible blow and a sharp realization that the US space program though very successful is extremely risky.

January 28, 2011
Click to view phronsie's profile

We were high-school seniors, and a number of the guys in our astronomy class (elective) had decided to watch the launch in the library during lunch, which was the period right before class.  I remember the shock and grief in on their faces and in their voices as they stumbled into class, "The shuttle blew up!"  We could scarcely believe such a terrible thing, until the announcement confirming the tragedy came over the loud speaker.  I remembered then making a little prayer just that morning, listening to the radio discuss the planned launch as I got ready for school, that everything would go well and that everyone would be safe.  The rest of the afternoon was spent in stunned shock, until I got home and could watch the news.  I cried and cried all evening for all the loss and this terrible blow to the dream that humanity would one day master itself and master space. 

January 28, 2011
Click to view partialmitch's profile

I was 6 years old, in 1st Grade, and we watched it on TV.  I wouldn't really say that it was traumatic, even at that young of an age, but it was very hard to handle.  I cried, so did most of the other kids, we all felt the loss.


Astronauts are true heroes, bold explorers who represent the best of humanity.  Let's remember those who have given their lives in the pursuit of human advancement, and let us celebrate those who put their lives on the line right now for the same purpose.

January 28, 2011
Click to view Jtrellis's profile

                         ON THE SILVER ANNIVERSARY ………….


(JANUARY 28TH 2011)







                                                   CHALLENGER 7



                        VERTICAL FLARE ALOFT IN THE AIR

                          CARRIER OF HOPES AND DREAMS



                          THE LEAST WE EXPECT SO IT SEEMS



















January 28, 2011
Click to view paula12345's profile

I was in my middle school drama class when it happened. It was in Miami,Fl and I remember how the school had turned on the TV's to let the kids watch the takeoff. We were all watching when it happened and I remember the silence that followed. Then kids started to ask what was going on and grew more and more upset as we all started to speculate. Then there was an announcement over the school intercom for the teachers to please turn off the TV's. The bell rang and we were all kept in the classroom for quite a while. When I got home all I did was watch the news.

January 28, 2011
Click to view KRV1973's profile

I was in my 7th grade home economics class at Liberty MS in Hutchinson, KS. I was looking forward to my next class, History, because our teacher was going to let us watch. Our principal came on the intercom and announced the tragedy. Since this was during the Cold War, we immediately thought the Russians did something. We could not believe it. The Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center (in Hutchinson) had one of the memorials for Challenger. I didn't get to see it until after it was revealed because we moved to Texas in March of that year. I will never forget that day.

January 28, 2011
Click to view JonfromLI's profile

I was sitting in my 3rd grade class with about 20 other students watching the liftoff on television.  Having never seen a shuttle liftoff before, I didn't know exactly what was going on until our teacher informed us what happened.

January 28, 2011
Click to view dpatterson76's profile

I was in 2nd grade and we were watching the lift off on TV.  We were all excited because we had been learning about NASA all week.  The class room was full of laughter and talking.  When the shuttle exploded, everything went silent and the teacher ran up and turned the television off.  I remember wondering what happened and not understanding till our teacher started crying.  I then knew they were all gone.  I have never forgotten that day.

January 28, 2011
Click to view RDula's profile

I was a student at Portland Middle School in Portland, MI.  It was lunchtime, and the principal, Mr. Adams, came into the gym and made an announcement about what had happened.  I ended up spending the rest of the day watching the TV up in Mr. Roessler's room, along with a bunch of other students.  Even today, the image of the "Y" debris cloud is imprinted in my memory.  It's hard to believe that it has been 25 years.

January 28, 2011
Click to view lancon454's profile

I remember this like it was yesterday. I was as school watching it on TV in one of my classes and I remember becoming so upset, because I wanted to be an Astronaut no bad , because of the movie Space Camp, but after this I no longer wanted to be one. I still to this day have clippings in a scrapbook of everything from my local paper that had to do with this and I still keep it. This had suck a huge impact on my life when I was a kid!

January 28, 2011
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I was running errands for my teacher, and very happy to be missing 7th grade pre-algebra. I was in the library, and the librarians had the launch showing on the television. They asked if the few students wanted to watch Challenger go into space. When the shuttle disintegrated, it took a moment for us to comprehend. I remember the librarians getting very upset, and telling us to let our teachers know. I remember having to tell my teacher, Mrs. Jensen, who was terribly upset. The rest of the day was a blur of sadness. I remember getting home and watching nonstop coverage . I am a junior high school history teacher now, and I share this story with my kids at the beginning of the year. History often happens when we least expect it; it is up to us to try to make sense of the events and move forward. God Bless those families and their sacrifice.

January 28, 2011
Click to view edhed's profile

25 years ago today, I was home sick, watching The Price is Right, when Dan Rather broke into the programming to tell me about the Challenger explosion. I was 12 years old and home alone. So sad.

January 28, 2011
Click to view CoreyAnn's profile

3rd grade, live, sitting in the first row of several with the rest of my class. I was 8 years old and I remember it like yesterday. Teachers crying, kids in shock, we all knew something really bad had happened and everyone on board was gone. You know, in all honesty, this was when I started on the road to becoming an atheist.

January 28, 2011
Click to view JRWLL's profile

I was a fourth grader in Ohio; we sat with our pencils in hand and journals out ready to write our thoughts on this momentous experience, a teacher, going into “outer space” wow. In the weeks prior we studied the solar system and researched NASA. We were provided pamphlets to take home in case we were privileged to one day make it to space camp. We knew that this was a big deal, as we rarely has an opportunity to watch anything inside a classroom aside from the occasional PBS special, yet alone history in the making. I recall the class having our own little countdown, then.... wait for it; blast off!. Wow, an immediate stream of smoke, we were waiting to see the capsule disappear into the clouds, but something was wrong and it was immediately apparent. We heard the reporter interrupt between sounds of a few firecracker sounding booms, you could see multiple flashes, then the smoke split, parts were falling from the sky. Everything happened so fast; then silence. Some of my peers were still clapping, not realizing that there was no more need for applause. I remember my teacher turning up the volume to hear the report as we sat silently staring at the screen. Soon, images of the astronauts were shown, again, but this time in their memory. The cameras turned to the crowds on the scene, the devastated and shocking faces of family, friends and NASA officials. The principal came over the intercom to painfully confirm the thoughts in our curious young minds, a moment of silence followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. I knew that this was a tragedy, and I to this day cannot shake the imagery that plays in my mind just as vivid as those of 911. Never forgotten; No life in vain.

January 28, 2011
Click to view taxi69's profile

I was in 8th grade science class in Kissimmee, FL. This was the first teacher I ever had that would not allow us to go outside to watch the shuttle launch.

We walked out of science class and students were yelling 'the shuttle just blew up'. We thought they were kidding until we looked up to see the white 'clouds' streaking across the sky in different directions. Everyone shuffled as fast as they could to the few classes that had a TV to get the story.

I still cry thinking about that day and remember it like it was yesterday.

January 28, 2011
Click to view OldsklBlr89's profile

I was a Freshman in H.S. and we were watching it with our own eyes in the blue sky above. The entire school, Frostproof Middle Senior High was outside. I was standing next to my Science Teacher and my Father who was a Teacher as well. I remember being able to hear the noise of the explosion some 90 miles away. We rushed into my Dads class and turned on TV. I'll never forget that day, just like 9/11, a sad day in history.

January 28, 2011
Click to view Ivanno's profile

It is amazing how we remember such events or incidents that changed in someways our lives.  I was just a toddler when JFK was assasinated, I remember my mother being very sad.  When RFK was shot I was in school and I heard this girl say, "Kennedy was shot" and I thought well everybody knows that, it happened a long time ago. Though little did I realize she was referring to Robert, not John. Dr King, I remember watching news coverage of his assasination wondering why would someone shoot him. Elvis, Lennon, Reagan, The Pope. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing.  The Challenger caught me by surprise and that's when I realized how fragile our lives really are.  These moments will always be engraved in our minds, never to be forgotten.  Tragedies will come and go but their faces will stay with us forever. God bless us all.

January 28, 2011
Click to view ameriker's profile

I was in 3rd grade and I remember another teacher coming into the classroom and whispering to my teacher what happened.  She then let us watch coverage. 

I collected articles out of the newspaper and magazines, drew a picture and even wrote a poem.  I still have that scrapbook today. 

I will never forget that day. Sending thoughts to the families.

January 28, 2011
Click to view Malificent's profile

I was 13 and watching the shuttle launch in the school auditorium with multiple science classes( Ojai Ca ). I had seen many launches before, my Dad is a NASA fan, they are always impressive. As I watched this particular launch, it was clear from the very start that something was not quite right in the liftoff. Then to our shocked surprise, the shuttle exploded. Some cried out, some just gasped in disbelief, most just hung their heads sobbing. A lot of "Oh my God NO!" were heard that day. I remember seeing my science teacher rooted to the spot where he stood, unable to mentally grasp what he had just witnessed. As bad as the moment was, it still does not compare to the aftermath, the news of what happened piece by piece as the investigation into the why the explosion took place. That was infinitely WORSE. The whole ordeal left a lasting impression however, the Crew will always be remembered as true Heroes.

January 28, 2011
Click to view seagram662's profile

I was 7 years old, 2 days from turning 8 and I guess I was sick that day because I was at home. My grandparents had told me we were gonna watch the space shuttle launch and I was very exited. I remember sitting in front of the TV making play-do shuttles and launching them. When the shuttle launched I remember jumping up and down clapping my hands. Then it came apart. Ill always remember where I was and what I was doing that day.

January 28, 2011
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ameriker can you post your poem?

January 28, 2011
Click to view jec2004's profile

I was 20 at the time, we lived in Florida and could see the launches from where we lived. I remember going home at lunch and knew they were launching that day and wanted to see if I could see it. As I drove home listening to the radio I heard what happened and when I got home I turned on the TV and told my mother what was going on, she started to cry when she saw the news footage of the explosion. It seemed like more then just the Astronaughts died that day a small part of America died with them.

January 28, 2011
Click to view zrock9's profile

I was in 7th and we were getting out of gym class and in the locker room when the announcement came on over the loudspeaker.  Afterwards, there was just stunned silence and we went down the to the library to watch it on tv.  Probably one of the worst times of our young lives.  The worse part is that one of classmates was a cousin of Astronaut Ronald Mcnair who died in the explosion.  That incident changed the space program and America forever.

January 28, 2011
Click to view MrsFizzy's profile

I was in 8th grade, English class, we weren't watching the launch.  Someone came to the door and the teacher left, she came back looking very grim and said in what sounded to me like such a disappointed tone "the shuttle just exploded".  Everyone was pretty stunned and quiet - my thoughts at first were "But the teacher's on there!"  We had been following her story and it was such an exciting thing that she, an ordinary person, had been selected to go up on the shuttle, it seemed extra unfair that it ended that way.  A little bit of  optimism and faith in the certainty of our human endeavors went out of me that day.

January 28, 2011
Click to view klmusnr72's profile

It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years! I just went to Space Camp six months before. Now the Shuttle program is coming to an end. I hope there will be new discoveries along these lines soon. It'd be exciting for my kids to see positive milestones like that in their childhood.


I was in Mrs. Basteen's 7th grade English class at Academy of the Sacred Heart in St. Charles, MO. I remember Mr. Biermann came into our classroom to tell us to go up to the Assembly Hall where we saw the images on the TV. Up to this point, I was very interested in becoming an astronaut. Wow how time flies. RIP Challenger crew!

January 28, 2011
Click to view tazangel36's profile

I was in 6th grade at Hendrick School in Plano, TX. We all wore red, white & blue that day in support of Ms. McAuliffe. We had a combined homeroom, everyone watching the launch live. And then it exploded... most of us understood what happened, but were too stunned to begin to comprehend. Our teachers just stood there in shock, and tears began to form in their eyes. The rest of the day, although we attended our regular classes, it was all anyone was talking about. It was like the teachers had all decided to hold group therapy (which I'm grateful for). Our school was brand-new, and didn't have a mascot...but just a few short weeks later, our mascot was the Challengers, and our t-shirts were black with a beautiful, silver space shuttle. My heart goes out to Ms. McAuliffe's family, and the families of the other astronauts, who must miss their loved ones terribly.

January 28, 2011
Click to view SSN21's profile

We all remember President Reagan's speech that night. It took me until I was much older to find the inspiration for that speech. One of his speech writers borrowed the "Slipped the surly bonds of Earth" line from a WW2 RCAF Poem called High Flight. Here is that poem.




“High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee RCAF



Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless falls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew –

And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod

The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.






January 28, 2011
Click to view AlliRae2011's profile

Wow. I was in the third grade. Mrs. Rhea's class in Crawfordville, Florida. The entire class watched the launch and I remember thinking (after the explosion)...this can't be real. I'm dreaming. And then the teacher got up and turned of the tv. Her face was so dark. I will never forget that moment. I was so afraid. RIP to them all.

January 28, 2011
Click to view bcg0273's profile

I was home sick that day, in fact it was a clear day I was living in Coral Springs Florida and I could see the shuttle lifting off and saw it explode, bad day to be sick

January 28, 2011
Click to view einstein08's profile

For some reason we were off school that day. I remember how cool it was that I was able to see the launch. I was propped in front of the TV and saw the shuttle take off. The rockets, the smoke, were so cool for a young kid.


Then it split into two sections and the announcer started saying that didn't look good. I had know idea what happened then they said everyone perished that day.


A day that started with so much promised and awe for me turned into such a terrible memory. It is hard to believe that 25 years have passed since that day.

January 28, 2011
Click to view fonzarelli99's profile

I was in 3rd grade, Mrs. Armstrong's class, and the teacher had a T.V. brought in so the class could watch the launch.  It was such a big day because Christa McAuliffe was going on the mission.  I remember thinking that it was fake, that the explosion wasn't real.  When it was confirmed that it had actually exploded, we all were hoping that somehow they made it out alive and splashed down into the ocean.  Unfortunately that wasn't the reality.  Very sad day that I will remember for the rest of my life.

January 28, 2011
Click to view aprilwvr's profile

In Georgia, it was a snow day for us! I was a freshman in high school and I had turned 15 a few months before that. I remember where I was and what I was doing!! My sister, brother and I were stranded at home and bored! We were counting our dad's collection of marbles. Bored out of our minds!! We were watching the news and soaps when they broke thru with the Challenger news. I also remember two years before that in the 7th grade when they told us about a teacher going to space! Very sad moment for the whole country!!!

January 28, 2011
Click to view SissyReads's profile

I was in the 4th grade at Floral City Elementary in Floral City, Florida, and our AL teacher decided to take a group of us to see the launch.  We were there.  Standing on a small beach, looking across the water, at the launch pad.  I remember that I forgot my camera on the school bus, because we were running late and we'd had to run from the parking lot to get a good spot to see it.  Someone had a radio and as we watched it explode, we could not believe what we were seeing.  The adults around us were crying, but we didn't really get it.  We were supposed to go in and tour the Space Center, but after the explosion they could not push people out of there fast enough.  We got back on the bus and our teachers took us to a small park and Fort somewhere where we used up some time.  They did not want to take us back to school before the other kids went home.


The next day we all had to talk to the guidance counselor and I still didn't get it.  It was sad, yes, but accidents happen, right?  My mom says it wasn't until they showed the funerals on tv and I saw that some of the astronauts had kids...that's when I got it.  Mommies and Daddies weren't coming home.  She said after that I cried for a couple of days, on and off. 


For our generation, it is one of the biggest things we can remember happening.  It certainly on of those "where were you?" events, and when I tell people I was there, I often get stunned looks. 


I have these old, small photographs that I took once we got back on the bus and I found my camera.  The smoke and mist hung in the air for a long time, staying in that same shape until the wind blew it away.  The memory will stay with me forever.


May they rest in peace.

January 28, 2011
Click to view sarahj79b's profile

I was 6 and I was home from school that day...I was playing with my barbies in my room and my dad came to tell me that a spaceship blew up and their was a teacher on it...I remember it very was a sad day! its one of my earliest memories

January 28, 2011
Click to view EJean's profile

I was in the 7th grade in Brunswick, Georgia, and walking between classes, you could look outside and see the distance plume of smoke from the explosion. It serpentined in the air. And I still wanted to go to space.

January 28, 2011
Click to view detroitkat's profile

I was in 1st grade.  The teacher wheeled in one of those TV on wheels/VCR combos and the kids in the classroom next to us came and sat on our floor.  We watched the shuttle explode on live TV.  Honestly, we were so young, we didn't fully understand what had just happened.  The teachers were very upset and I remember my teacher running over and shutting it off.  Even though it took some time to fully understand it, I just remember that image SO clearly.  To think so much time has passed is mind boggling. 


January 28, 2011
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I was in my 7th year of teaching and watching the launch in my school's library. I have always used Nasa and the Shuttle Missions as tools in my math classes and this launch was special because a teacher was going into space for the 1st time. As soon as Challenger went to throttle up I knew that something had gone terribly wrong. I remember calling our principal to tell him what happened. He made an announcement shortly after to our student body. I'll never forget how quiet our 500 plus student cafeteria was that day at lunch. Everyone was in total shock. Watching the broadcasts again today made 25 years ago feel like yesterday. I was left with an empty feeling in my stomach as I relived this most tragic moment, not just in Nasa's history, but in our country's history.Today I showed it to my classes in this, my 31st year of teaching, and even though these kids weren't even born yet, the silence in my classes today was as deafening as it was in that cafeteria 25 years ago. So today..we remember..and honor..these 7 heroes.

January 28, 2011
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It was a bitter-sweet day. That very day I came home excited, from the doctor with the good news of being pregnant with our first and only child...the new was on TV about the Challenger. It was hard to be happy and sad at the same time.  I'll always remember that day.

January 28, 2011
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I was in the fifth grade at Dover Elementary School in Westlake, Ohio.  We were doing arts and crafts in class, when all of a sudden a teacher ran into the room with a television and announced that the space shuttle had exploded.  We were not watching the launch, and I remember that I had wanted to because of Christa McAuliffe.  The teacher turned the tv on, and we watched the replay of the explosion and the subsequent news coverage.  My science teacher, who was also ran the school's model rocket club of which I was a member, was one of the participants in the program and had met Christa Mcauliffe.  I remember going to his class later in the afternoon and him watching the tv sobbing.  He was so upset he had to leave the class.  Then, later in the day I had to take a social studies test.  I remember thinking how insesnitive it was to make us all take a test that day when all of the class was so clearly upset.  I remember not talking for the rest of the day because I couldn't understand how something so horrible had happened.  It was the first time I had grasped the meaning of tragedy, and it is something I will never forget.

January 28, 2011
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I was 15 and at home banging my sister at the time the explosion occured...

January 28, 2011
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I was in the 1st grade at St. Gregory's catholic school in Virginia Beach, VA. I remember the launch had been really hyped for us, and to me it promised to be the coolest thing I'd ever witnessed. I felt very privileged to be a part of history. My memory of the launch is in slow motion. I remember seeing the shuttle rise, and I felt such awe watching it ascend into the deep blue sky, filled with wonder that it would soon be in outer space! It was almost unimaginable. Then, as I watched, I remember seeing a tiny piece of the shuttle fall off. In the next split second, my six year old mind wondered, puzzled, could that be the rocket boosters disconnecting? Perhaps that's what I wanted to believe. But after the very next second, and the explosion, there was no doubt that something terrible had happened. Everything was silent. I don't remember the teacher turning off the TV, or what was said after that. I can't express the way I felt at six years old when I witnessed the instant and unspeakably tragic death of those brave astronauts.

January 28, 2011
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I was in 5th grade in Colorado.  We had the TV on one of those old TV cart wheeled in to our home room to watch the launch.  This was after spending weeks learning about NASA, the launch, Christa and other crew members.  As the shuttle launched, we counted down with them and then reupted in cheers - as the shuttle exploded, we erupted in disbelief.  We were frozen with fear until the principle of the school came over the PA system to announce the tragedy.  We were immediately escorted to the cafeteria, where we gathered as a school, with the school counselor, and even did a prayer.  I remember it clear as day.  We were the grade that named the new middle school that year - which was named "Challenger Middle School" with tributes to the fallen astronauts. Amazing how quickly 25 years has gone....

January 28, 2011
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I was a 2nd grader, at home sick with the flu the day of the tragedy.  All I remember is my brother running up the stairs yelling to my Mom, "The shuttle just blew up!"  She dismissed it, thinking he was overreacting to the smoke and flames that are common during liftoff.  We went downstairs immediately and realized that he was right.  I can't believe it has been 25 years.  So sad.

January 28, 2011
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I was in the second grade at the time.  We had watched many shuttle launches before and I figured this would be no different.  I can remember seeing an explosion and a large ball of smoke before the the principal came over the intercom with instructions for all of the televisions to be turned off.  It was some time before we actually learned what had happened. 


1986 was a bad year all around.  The Month of April saw the FBI Miami shootout as well as the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. 


January 28, 2011
Click to view Aiken's profile

I was 16 and home from school, sick and dozing, when my friend called to tell me, "The Shuttle just blew up," and to turn on my TV.  The first thing I saw was the split exhaust cloud, and I remember seeing that only the two boosters had really continued upwards, that the streamers of smoke otherwise went only downwards.  After a while, they zoomed in on one large piece of debris, tumbling over and over as it fell, and the news anchors were guessing that it was the cockpit section.  I thought so, too.  I wished it had a parachute, but I knew it didn't.  All I could do was hope those inside were either unconscious or already dead.


I've just watched a news article on it, and I was surprised how hard the video hit me again, after all these years, and all those days of seeing it over and over and getting numbed to it.  I take from it, though, this quote from Ronald Reagan:  "The future doesn't belong to the faint-hearted; it belongs to the brave.  The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow."


January 28, 2011
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I was a 5th grader at Cape View Elementary in Cape Canaveral, FL.  My father, along with many of my classmates' parents, worked at the Space Center. We always went to the playground to watch any launch that occured during the school day, as we were only a few miles from the Space Center and had the best view.  All of us grew up living and breathing the space program and hoping to be astronauts someday.  All of us had seen enough launches to know immediately that something had gone wrong and watched in horror as the pieces fell from the sky.  It was so tramatic to the psyche of all the residents there, especially so to the children. This was after all, tangible proof that dreams don't always come true, a hard lesson to learn at an early age. I believe they brought in counselors to the school, and we all wrote letters and poems that were carried in the newspaper memorials that followed over the next several weeks. God Bless Challenger and her crew. Columbia too.

January 28, 2011
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I was a 4th Grader at Stanford Elementary School.  We were about to go to recess when all of a sudden, one of the school staff came into the room and said something to my teacher, Mike Harvey.  He turned on the TV in the room and we all saw the Challenger blow up, right before our eyes.  The TV stayed on for the rest of the day, and even though we stayed in school the rest of the day, all classes had been cancelled.  It was a big shock to me, one I never forgot through the years.  I even remember being fearful that the next shuttle, years later (I think it was called the Atlantis) would explode in the same way.  I even had a nightmare about it.

January 28, 2011
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BTW, the school was Stanford Avenue Elementary School in Oroville, California.

January 28, 2011
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I had recently left my beloved NOLA and was now in N KY and not liking it all that much. I was 12 and had wanted to be an astronaut for several years. We were all watching the liftoff in school because of a teacher being on board. Everyone was so happy and excited. All that changed so quickly into tears and stunned silence. No one could believe what we were seeing.

January 28, 2011
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I don't remember the Challenger exploding, I was actually born 25 years ago today. Growing up I was always told about the tragic story that happened the day I was born. It was a sad day for many but a great blessing for my mom. This is a story that will be with me forever, these astronauts are true heros, may they rest in peace.

January 28, 2011
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What does dragging up all these old memories accomplice?

Nothing, move on.

January 28, 2011
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I was in 4th grade watching the Challenger launch with my homeroom class.  What I remember most about that day was the reaction of the teachers in the room.  After a moment of stunned silence, a teacher ran over to the television set and shut it off.  The only explanation we got was that "something went wrong".  It wasn't until we were dismissed for the day and went home that I learned any more about the explosion.  Obviously everyone watching knew that the shuttle blew up but it was almost like the school administrators were censoring any further information.

January 28, 2011
Click to view democrat1976's profile

I was in 4th grade at Westside Elementary School in Mauston, WI. I was in homeroom which I believe was Mrs. McCallums class. The teacher rolled on one of those old school TVs. We watched it explode. I remember feeling very sad. I also remember later on watching President Reagan's moving speech about the tragic event.

January 28, 2011
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I was in my 2nd grade classroom watching the launch.  Everybody was so excited, there was a lot of buzz about the historic event and we were all going to watch it live. We watched with great excitement as Challenger launched.  But the excitement quickly grew to confusion and then the teacher turned off the tv.  She was also confused. The Challenger tragedy so sadly made the point of how extremely dangerous space exploration can be. As I watched the images today of the Challenger tragedy I could not help to shed a few tears....for the brave men and women who risked their lives all in the name of space exploration.  Unbelievable that 25 years have passed!!! The irony is that I now work for NASA.  Would never have dreamed this as a second grader watching the tragedy unfold. We'll always remember the crew and families!

January 28, 2011
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I was in sixth grade at Scribner Elementary in Penfield, NY, in Mr. Quigley's class.  The 5th grade teacher next door, Mr. Ludwig, had wheeled in a TV.  I was at my desk and had forgotten the shuttle was going up; either that or I didn't care until I saw several classmates watching silently and intently.  I went over and said "What's going on, oh the what?"  I then saw a relay of the explosion and stood there stunned.  I remember going back to my desk and just sitting there in stunned silence.

January 28, 2011
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I was working in the public affairs office of an environmental regulatory agency, and right after lunch a group of us pulled out a television to see the launch of The Challenger. Our exhilaration changed to profound sadness at the point we realized the flames shooting out of the shuttle were not a normal part of the launch. A newscaster confirmed our worst fears.

January 28, 2011
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I had just turned 6 years old, and was in class, TV turned on, all huddled in a semi circle watching TV. Our teacher narrated when there was nothing being said on TV. We all watched thinking how a teacher, a teacher that could have and should have been our own was on that shuttle. I believed we would actually see her on TV teaching us from space. As we watched the shuttle lift off I remember looking at my fellow class mates and back at the TV, none of us smiled, no one said a word except our teacher. We saw a big puff of smoke and our teacher exclaimed, "Oh my god!" and looked at is in horror, almost as if she didnt know what to say or do. We watched as the shuttle exploded and pieces went flying everywhere. One of the girls asked, "Did the shuttle explode because it hit the Earth atmosphere?", and an administrator from the office ran into our room and said "TV...OFF!" and ran out. I knew the shuttle exploded, and I knew this was not supposed to happen. I was sent home, as was the rest of the school that day - when I got home, I thought the astronauts escaped using parachutes. I realized within hours, they all died. When we returned to school, none of us wished our teacher was on that shuttle, and none of us wanted to be an astronaut after that day. It was for me, the beginning of the end of the space race, and the shuttle. There was no more reason to orbit earth or explore, unless we were going back to the Moon or Mars. Every shuttle or rocket since, that Ive been able to view, Ive sat, gripped with fear - a fear that never leaves - that this craft too, will explode. The Columbia disaster only brought back more memories. I guess, for those of us young and impressionable, we are scarred for life from this event.

January 28, 2011
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I watched this live from the porch of my house. I went to Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne FL, just minutes away from the Cape. The astronauts had a program where they would visit the schools for breakfasts and give talks. I had not met this set of heros, but still felt very conected to them since they were part of our community. Many of my friends parents worked at the cape or for various contractors in the space coast region.


The 747 that brought her back when she would land at Edwards AFB would pass so low over my house that you could see the individual tiles on the craft.


When she would land at the Cape, the sonic boom would shake the house louder than any thunder, but nobody every seemed to mind at all. It was like a bell that told us our heros were home.


Whenever there was a shuttle shot, first period classes at my high school, were always mysteriously sparse. It almost seemed like the truant officers and principles of the schools would look the other way on shuttle launch days. I was a senior. I ditched class that day too to watch her go off. I had my dad's camera and would watch her rise and make that slight roll over the ocean.


But this day as I took some pictures something looked, well, just not-right. I kept snapping as I saw these random plumes of vapor and smoke diverge from what I recognized as the launch path. Something didnt look right, and I got this empty feeling in my stomach. I remember a blaring silence. There wasn't even a bird chiping. I ran inside and remember hearing mission control state that there had been a "major malfunction" and that the flight director had confirmed that the vehicle had exploded.


I developed my film and kept one picture, and sent the negatives into NASA. Anything I could do to help.


It was a very sad day, and one I will never ever forget.

January 28, 2011
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i must have been watching it, i was in kindergarten. but i don't remember. i remember a few years later watching the punky brewster episode.

January 29, 2011
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The Republicans have the blood of 14 astronauts on their hands. & died while Reagan served as President and 7 died while George W Bush served as President. In both situations the Republican appointed NASA chief refused to cancel the launch over the HEATED objections of engineers warning of impending doom.


Somehow Republicans just do not have the lives of people as a high priority and it shows even in the Space program.



January 30, 2011
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DEMOCRATZ, here we go again with nonsense. Keep the silliness to yourself or why don't you just write a comic book about all your demented thoughts. Now there's a bright idea, something you don't seem to have.

January 30, 2011
Click to view TNopinion's profile

We were not watching it live, but I heard about the explosion between classes.  The class I was headed to was a computer class and our teacher used a big screen tv for her monitor.  We connected her tv to telecable - the only classroom in the school that had that ability - and watched the aftermath trying to make sense of what was going on.  TV's in class were a rarity at that time, so when computer class was over and we had to move to another class, we had no coverage of what was going on.  I remember coming home and watching tv for the rest of the evening hoping there would be survivors but knowing the likelihood was slim.  I agree with rwalford79 - this was the end of the space race for me.  After that, I could no longer get excited about a space launch or landing. 

February 10, 2011
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