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Remembering the Challenger Tragedy: Touch the face of God

I remember it was a frigid winter’s day 25 years ago today and I was in between classes during my first year of college when I first heard the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded shortly after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  I was just leaving the college post office when the first images of the shuttle exploding were displayed on a TV located in the lobby.  The moment froze me in time as my eyes locked on these terrible images.  There were no survivors.

I’m ashamed to say but I didn’t even realize a teacher from New Hampshire was a member of the seven person crew.  Her name was Christa McAuliffe, a 37 year old high school social studies teacher.  She won a competition and was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project.

It was indeed a national tragedy.  President Reagan addressed a nation in shock and disbelief.  His compassionate words were the right words for the time.  They comforted a nation deeply hurt by this terrible event.  His steadfast leadership helped move a space program and our country forward.  Below is a video clip of that four minute speech.

Thank you Mr. President for your leadership and the right words.  May we never forget the brave men and women of the Challenger crew.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!


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  • LD Jackson January 28, 2011 at 6:19 AM

    The Challenger disaster was one of those times that embedded in my mind where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. It was indeed a very sad time for our country. President Reagan did a great job at helping us all put it into perspective.
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  • RightHandMan
    RightHandMan January 28, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    I was a very young child when my family gathered around the television to watch the President speak to us. Even as a child I could tell that the event was important and that the President was very comforting. I’m not sure he had a finer moment as a leader… Too bad we didn’t have that same type of response after Ft. Hood.

    What really sticks out to me is that the tragedy didn’t turn into a political exploit. Perhaps because there wasn’t any room to do so. America was largely united behind NASA and the bravery of our astronauts. Obama has even managed to make NASA a partisan issue.

    Interesting note: Barbra Morgon was the backup teacher behind McAullife. Morgon taught at two different schools growing up. One at McCall, Idaho (where I lived during 5th grade), and in Arlee, MT (Just down the road from where I spent the rest of my school years).

  • Bunkerville January 28, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    But it didn’t stop us. That was the lesson. In spite of the pain of losing all these fine folks, we still were reaching for the stars. No more apparently.

  • innominatus January 28, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    One of those events, like 9/11, where I remember everything about the moment I first heard the bad news.
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  • Infidel de Manahatta January 28, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    I too remember the exact moment I heard about the Challenger.

    Of course what I also remember is how the leftists tried to pin the blame on Reagan, saying that he “ordered” the space shuttle to take off so he’d have a talking for for his State of the Union speech.

    Leftists, never let facts get in the way of hatred.
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  • Jim Gourdie January 28, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    John, you recently wrote about defining moments in life. This was a defining moment for Reagan and for America. Reagan helped America through that important moment.
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  • Matt January 28, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    I remember where I was when I heard about this. Before 9-11, many of us thought that this was our “Pearl Harbor” moment.
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  • Teresa January 28, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    I will never forget the Challenger disaster and hearing the news of it in my third grade classroom. Coincidentally I had a friend in that same class whose dad worked for NASA. I will never forget President Reagan’s inspirational and empathetic words as he consoled the nation after that horrific tragedy. Thanks for posting on this John.
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    • John Carey January 28, 2011 at 11:04 PM

      A friend of mine was vacationing in North Carolina a few weeks after the shuttle disaster and actually found a piece washed up on the shore. He called NASA and they sent a team to his house to collected it from him. They gave him a letter for his help.
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