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Posted at 7:37 AM ET, 01/28/2011

Challenger 25th anniversary: Memories of the day

By Melissa Bell
egypt riots
This 1986 photo shows the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, from left, Ellison Onizuka, Mike Smith, Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Greg Jarvis, Ron McNair and Judy Resnick. (AP Photo/NASA)

On a bright blue morning in Florida in 1986, the Challenger shuttle launched into space. Twenty-eight years had passed since NASA had first formed. Shuttle flights had become routine. What set this one apart was the diversity of the crew and the addition of the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. The shuttle took off buoyed by hope and pride, watched by a nation enamored with the great U.S. space program and by schoolchildren filling classrooms early in the morning.

Seventy-three seconds later, the shuttle disappeared into an orange and white cloud, and the nation stood in shock and disbelief.

President Ronald Reagan, in a moving broadcast to the nation that afternoon, paraphrased a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, a young American airman killed in World War II saying the crew "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."

Read The Post's story, "The horror dawned slowly," from January 28, 1986 here.

Where were you on the day of the Challenger? What are your memories of that day?

Let us know by using the hashtag #wherewereyou or leaving your thoughts in the comments.

Here's Reagan's speech the night of the Challenger explosion:

The lessons of the Challenger, 25 years later:

RESPONSES TO #WHEREWEREYOU:
Most of the responses to our hashtag on Twitter are from people who were students at the time. These are just a handful of replies.

Many are asking #wherewereyou when space shuttle Challenger blew up 25 years ago. I was pasting up pages at weekly newspaper. TV was on.less than a minute ago via web

In 5th grade. Had just gotten back from P.E., when our teacher came in crying. #challenger #wherewereyouless than a minute ago via web

Dating myself... 25 years ago today: watched it live on TV in Psych 101 class @Cal. #Challenger #WhereWereYou? cc: @washingtonpostless than a minute ago via ÜberTwitter

My class was gathered in the library to watch the #Challenger. Stunned silence, audible gasps, confused 5th graders. #WhereWereYouless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

skipped class to go home to watch the launch. Interned in Congress later that day and cried with Rep.Whitehurst. #Wherewereyou #Challengerless than a minute ago via web

Was sitting in Mrs. Gramenz' 1st grade class 25 years ago when Challenger exploded #wherewereyouless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

@washingtonpost watching & getting scarred for life along with my fourth grade class #wherewereyouless than a minute ago via web

@washingtonpost Playing basketball in Mr. Mason's PE class at Kolter Elem. in Houston. Everyone got herded inside to watch. #WhereWereYouless than a minute ago via web

I was home. Sick, and cried on my parents bed RT @washingtonpost: 25 years ago today, the #Challenger space shuttle exploded. #WhereWereYou?less than a minute ago via web

By Melissa Bell  | January 28, 2011; 7:37 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Comments

I was in 5th grade... Mrs. Nelson's class... and the 4th graders were watching the launch on TV when one of their teachers ran into our class and with tears on her face gave the news to everyone else. The kids weren't sure what the big deal was, but I think our teachers were especially concerned for the fate of one of their own. The event stands clear in my mind.

Posted by: WorldCup | January 28, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I was a freshman at Georgetown University and saw it on a TV in the old Healy basement. (There were actually community "TV Rooms" back then...imagine). It was shocking and sad and it stood for sometime as a marker for our generation. But when you look at what has come since in America...Oklahoma City, Columbine, Sept. 11th, Virginia Tech...it now sadly seems like nothing worse than a bad traffic accident.

Posted by: conchfc | January 28, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Here's a lesson:

Space travel is dangerous.
Turning astronauts into martyrs hurt the space program and still does.
They're dead, get over it.

How many of you know the names of the current ISS crew? Can you see the problem with turning these dead people into saints while ignoring the living?

I am sick of this. 25 years is more than long enough. Far more horrible things happen every single day that every last one of you ignore and do nothing about.

Posted by: Nymous | January 28, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I was an American student in London. While at the High Holborn tube stop, around 6:00pm local time, I saw a Daily Mail placard that said in huge letters "SHUTTLE EXPLODES". My first thought was, "Bloody British tabloid press, always making things up". Then I saw the newspapers. It felt like a cold stone in my stomach. That night I watched Reagan's address on the BBC.

Posted by: ferreiro | January 28, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

@Nymous -- Is that what you'd say to those astronauts surviving family members, and those who were directly impacted by the tragedy? If you don't care about it, just ignore it and read something else. You make yourself look far less ignorant that way.


I was in college coming back from a class when a buddy of mine was running down the hall of dorm looking really upset. I asked what was wrong and he told me the shuttle blew up. I ran to my room and just watched for hours. It's still pretty shocking, even today.

Posted by: stwasm | January 28, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

That was the day I first saw what a fearful adult looked like.
I was working a shift as a student helper in our a middle school library.
A group of students were in the back of the library to watch the launch on one of the school's few televisions, a big old black-and-white set on a metal stand. They were the only ones in a school of about 1,000 students who were watching the event.
I had always been interested in space, but I didn't want to be seen watching TV while I was working, so I stayed at the circulation desk.
Then there was the hubbub and crying.
The principal came in, and he had a conversation with the library right in front of me. Should we make an announcement? A fearful look on the principal's face. A pause. No, he said. Let them learn about it when they get home.

I knew about it. The seven or eight students who had seen it, knew about it.

We talked to our classmates about it. By the end of the day the school of buzzing. Of course 99 percent of the students didn't know any of the facts, only what they had heard. There were no smartphones, internet. Some students must have had radios, but that didn't seem a factor. The teachers all claimed to be agnostic about it, but were probably glued to the set in their lounge during breaks.

When I got home, my mother -- president of the district PTA -- knew they hadn't made an announcement. And she was livid.

"Keeping information from children is the opposite of education," she said.

Posted by: 1EgoNemo | January 28, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I always watched the launches and landings when I could. I was living alone and I had a bad cold. I was waiting for the launch but fell asleep. A friend called, woke me up, and told me what happened. I was stunned and watched coverage the rest of the day, flipping channels.

The world was focussed on Christa McAuliffe, but I had read a bit about Judith Resnick ~ female Jewish astronaut ~ and I felt like I lost a sister.

Posted by: PollyTicks | January 28, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I was getting ready to celebrate both, my birthday and the launching. Ever since, I have not celebrated my birthday!

Posted by: InesJones | January 28, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

My remembrance of the tragic event has two parts.

1) I was a teacher at Pointer Ridge
Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland. On that day I was on cafeteria duty when our 1st and 2nd graders were eating lunch. I lined up one of the classes to go back to their classroom to watch the Challenger go into space. A teacher came running up the hall to where I had the kids lined up and told me frantically to take them back and sit them down in the cafeteria. I and the other teachers and students in the cafeteria subsequently learned of the tragedy. Of course, TVs were turned on in classrooms all over the school, so most of our youngsters actually saw the tragedy of the Challenger occur.

2) Christa McAuliffe had been a science teacher at Thomas Johnson Middle School. I met her when I was visiting my counterpart, the reading specialist at that school. (I was a middle school reading specialist prior to going to Pointer Ridge as a special education resource teacher.) She pointed out Christa's classroom and I got to meet her briefly.

The rest of the story:
In the movie of the Challenger disaster made some years after, Karen Allen ("Raiders of the Lost Ark", "Perfect Storm" and other movies)played the role of Christa McAuliffe. Karen had gone to a Maryland high school and at least year at the University of Maryland before becoming a successful screen actress. My wife and I became friends with her parents, Tom and Pat Allen, and still are, even though they now live in West Virgina and we are North Carolinians. I met Karen just once, briefly, when she was visiting perents. So the Challenger disaster has a vivid memory for me.

Posted by: sfr123 | January 28, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I was in Army Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. We had spent the day at the rifle range. We were called into our company meeting room afterwards and given the news.

Posted by: giotto | January 28, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I remember thinking, "bummer!" But, end of the day, just 7 people (and not Heroes!!) that took a risk and died...just as 20,000 other people a year die in accidents as the risk odds of their endeavors nails the unlucky.

The mania about safety at any cost after Challenger did not make space flight any safer, but the delays and costs of "safety!" meant the writing was on the wall - Along with new improved unmanned vehicle technology, the mania for safety slowly doomed manned spaceflight.

We are in it's twilight. No replacement vehicle to the Shuttle coming, last manned project is the ISS that makes no real science. The military sees no missions requiring people aloft. No exploration mission that cannot be done cheaper and faster and longer duration by unmanned orbiters, probes, and Rovers with all the brains they need to direct and analyze safely here Earthside.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | January 28, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

@Nymous:

Please, stop posting.

Posted by: candordatviribusalas | January 28, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

@ChrisFord1

The 'mania for safety' theory of the decline of U.S. manned spaceflight is interesting, but lacks any real factual basis.

The biggest proof against it was that the Shuttle system wasn't really made any safer. Lots of talk about safety -- perhaps that's what you mean about 'mania' -- but the talk didn't slow the program down at all. Flights resumed. The International Space Station was put into orbit. The Hubble Space Telescope repaired, twice.

What doomed U.S. manned spaceflight was two things:

1. The success of unmanned flight. While spending billions to reach and return from low-Earth orbit, a few millions of dollars had been put toward sending highly successful vehicles, in just a few years, to nearly all parts of the Solar System. Just as in manufacturing, automation transformed spaceflight, increasing efficiency and productivity.

2. Decades of anti-government rhetoric. Here we are, nearly 50 years after voyaging to the Moon and back, and there is still no private enterprise of sufficient size to promote manned spaceflight. Governments remain the only human institutions with the capital and longevity to conduct manned spaceflight.
Yet, American taxpayers, over the last 40 years, have been fed a steady diet of anti-government rhetoric which makes it impossible to have a rational national discussion about the costs and benefits of manned spaceflight. The boogie man of the Soviet Union is gone, and the images of disintegrating space vehicles on TV news make it even harder to make the argument successfully. Once organized, propagandistic tax-revolt talk is injected into the mix, rational discussion is impossible. It is easier to do nothing than to do something.

So, so much for the 'mania for safety' 'theory.' While it may be some kind of esoteric contributing force, the true culprits are the success and value brought by unmanned missions, and the damage to the public square wrought by rhetorical terrorists who have sold the lie that the government of the people, by the people and for the people is unworthy of the costs and risks of manned space travel.

Posted by: 1EgoNemo | January 28, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I was in the 8th grade in NH, and since Christa McAuliffe was a NH teacher, we were all watching when it happened. The mood changed so quickly from the excitement in watching the shuttle launch to disbelief and silence. Our teachers were particularly affected. It was definitely an experience that stood out from our day-to-day school life.

Posted by: ACMD | January 28, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I was a former teacher working as field staff for the Virginia Education Association. I was driving on I-85 near New Market, VA heading to my office in Harrisonburg listening to the launch broadcast. I had to pull over & stop I was crying so hard.
All space flights were special back then but Challenger was even more so to educators because one of their own, Christa McAuliffe was on board, a teacher was going into space! There were special lessons being planned & she was going to teach some of them from the shuttle.
It needs to also be remembered that the Challenger crew was probably the most diverse to ever launch. It included an Asian-American, an African-American and 2 women including Christa and Judy Resnick who was of the Jewish faith. It was a true cross-section of Americans.

Posted by: esva | January 28, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I was in kindergarten at Diamond Elementary in Gaithersburg. The Challenger explosion was about the first time I remember being aware of world events. I was out of school by the afternoon, and I remember spending the rest of the day watching the news. The image of that shuttle going up and exploding, shown over and over on TV, has been with me ever since.

Posted by: en220 | January 28, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I was a senior in high school and still living in Honolulu at the time. I was just getting ready to leave for school when my grandmother said that someone on the news had said something about a "major malfunction" with the shuttle launch. We watched the news together for a few moments, then saw the footage of the explosion.

Posted by: psknight | January 28, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

When I heard, I was in 9th grade at Albert Einstein H.S. (Kensington, MD). It was 7th period, early afternoon. The teacher said, "I guess you heard about what happened to the space shuttle." A boy made a sort of expanding motion with his hands and a sort of exploding sound effect with his mouth. On the bus on the way home, I think we heard something about it on the radio on the school bus back from Kensington to Silver Spring.

I did not want to watch the news coverage on TV and see the picture over and over, maybe because I was already obsessed, but with the story, not the picture. I waited for the Washington Post the next day. I cut out articles and photos and made an album, as my mother had for Kennedy's assassination. I particularly remember the photo of a little girl's face from Christa McAuliffe's school, happy before, shocked after.

I was at an age when I idolized my teachers. I imagined what if my favorite teacher had been on that shuttle. I felt terribly sad, especially as it came out that the problems with the O-rings could have been predicted and stopped. It was an early lesson that "the devil is in the details," and that paying attention to the physical world's demands & constraints must never be pushed aside in favor of social-institutional-bureaucratic "imperatives" such as launching "on time."

Now I work at a university in Missouri and every time I meet a McNair Scholar, someone who is the first in their family to go to college and receiving the Dept. of Ed. scholarship established in honor of Dr. Ronald McNair, I think of this long-lasting, positive legacy of this Challenger astronaut and am glad that something about the educational mission of this flight could be fulfilled after the Challenger's terrible and horribly unscientific end.

Posted by: RachelMO | January 28, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I was at Martin Marietta Laboratories, and since MM made the External Tanks, there was a tremendous sense of sadness and responsibility. Judy Resnick had come through the Labs, and was very popular with the scientists.
Everyone was watching the launch. Lunch in the cafeteria that day was so quiet and sad.

Posted by: cococo | January 28, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I was putting my college education, completed the year before, to good use [not] cutting grass and raking sand traps at Carrollwood County Club in Tampa. I did not see the explosion, but from directly across the state, I could look up and the sky was full of smoke trails. Then I rode around in a golf cart doing my work that afternoon carrying a radio listening to news reports. An amazing day.

Posted by: Craig_Colgan | January 28, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

When the shuttle accident occured, space missions seemed so commonplace, they hardly got notice. Normally, I would not have bothered to have watched a launch--they weren't commonly carried by major tv stations and frankly--they weren't usually very notable.

However, this time, I was working an early morning shift as dormitory receptionist at American University. There was a tiny tv provided for keeping sleepy attendants awake--and usually, the only things on tv in the early hours before 6 am were televangelist broadcasts. But one of the local public broadcasting stations picked up the NASA feed, so I watched it, when it started at about 4 am. It was of interest to me, since I had just accepted an elementary school teaching job and wanted to see Cristi McCauliffe's educational programming, which was to proceed the blast-off.

As I recall, it started with the crew came back by and said goodbye as they boarded the shuttle. After that, there was a very long wait for the countdown. NASA filled the gap with different interviews--starting with interviews with senior managers and engineers. Once school hours started, focus changed to science segments aimed at primary school students, including, to my delight a segment focusting on an AU classmate's science experiment (spiderwebs in space) which had been carried on a previous mssion.

A bit after 11, the countdown finally started--and to be honest, while the divided trail was noticeable, there wasn't anything preturbing (we expected the shuttle to shed engines as it went up--and the live video feed didn't clearly show the explosion). But then everything went silent and stayed silent. The happy chatter didn't return, nobody said a thing. Slowly, you could hear the crowd talking very quietly among themselves--but nobody moved from their seats. A few minutes later, a friend came by and said she'd heard on the radio that the shuttle exploded. Finally, a young man's voice quietly said that they were awaiting update from mission control.

Three years later, I ended up meeting the man who made that announcement in a grad school class. He said that in the weeks up to that, the NASA PR dept had become close with the mission team--so they'd shut down the mics as everyone realized the truth started crying. Then they realized America's primary schools were watching the launch--and it took all his strength to regain composure and to talk to the children listening.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | January 28, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I was a Page at NBC Studios in Burbank and scheduled to give an 8:00 tour. I remember having to go out a greet a group of tourists who were glued to the tv in the lobby. Instead of going to the usual stops, I took the group directly to the newsroom, so we could witness the news team and staff working to report to the horrible news. KNBC was the only local station that had originally shown live coverage of the flight and it was impressive to see the origanized chaos behind the scenes. A most unforgettable and tragic day. I also remember everyone holding onto hope that the crew had somehow escaped and survived.

Posted by: deedeebree28 | January 28, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

.
.
.
.
don’t kill another Shuttle crew!!!!!!!!
.
the ET cracks might very likely cause a, never seen before, huge ET foam debris that may destroy the Shuttle before it reaches the orbit!!!!!!
.
about 15 months ago I’ve proposed the DEFINITIVE solution for the Shuttle ET’s foam issue in this article:
.
“The idea that can save SEVEN astronauts” … http://www.ghostnasa.com/posts/050savethecrew.html
.
maybe, NASA can use MY idea NOW, for the Discovery STS-133 mission and the latest flights, to avoid a further Challenger or Columbia disaster
.
there’s still over a month to fix the ET issue and save the Discovery crew!
.
.
.
.

Posted by: www999 | January 28, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I was napping before one of my Aerospace Engineering classes at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I woke up late and headed to class only to see everybody staring at the TV monitors in class and they were playing the explosion over and over again. All Engineering classes were canceled for the rest of the day and people started laying flowers at the astronaut wall at the engineering center.

It is a hard hit for University of Colorado since LTC Onizuka was a graduate and undergraduate in the Aerospace Engineering program there. He also earned his Air Force Commission there through ROTC. They brought his family back a year later and honored them during a football game.

The morbid coincidence is that during the Shuttle Columbia disaster years later, University of Colorado also had another graduate and professor on board that one (Chawla)

Posted by: DonnyKerabatsos | January 28, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The Challenger tragedy impacted people all over the world. Shuttle takeoffs were routinely reported on soviet tv. The Soviet Union wanted a shuttle of its own (which they eventually designed).


On the day after the tragedy, the Soviet state channel showed an american reporter interviewing a random soviet citizen in moscow. He asked the woman if she felt glad the challenger exploded. The woman's response was that soviet people shared the pain of the loss of another space nation and that they loved america and what it stood for (which was true back then, is hardly true now, but Russians still do not dance in the streets when America suffers a national loss).

That was one of the first non-censured interviews on Soviet TV. Of course, the Government propaganda said that the Challenger was supposed to be an American Dream come true, and 'what what happened to the American dream'.

It was a simpler life back then,with one predictible and convenient enemy (USSR), and the idea of American dream being a promise, not an illusion.

Posted by: Silly_Willy_Bulldog | January 28, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

When the shuttle accident occured, space missions seemed so commonplace, they hardly got notice. Normally, I would not have bothered to have watched a launch--they weren't commonly carried by major tv stations and frankly--they weren't usually very notable.

However, this time, I was working an early morning shift as dormitory receptionist at American University. There was a tiny tv provided for keeping sleepy attendants awake--and usually, the only things on tv in the early hours before 6 am were televangelist broadcasts. But one of the local public broadcasting stations picked up the NASA feed, so I watched it, when it started at about 4 am. It was of interest to me, since I had just accepted an elementary school teaching job and wanted to see Cristi McCauliffe's educational programming, which was to proceed the blast-off.

As I recall, it started with the crew came back by and said goodbye as they boarded the shuttle. After that, there was a very long wait for the countdown. NASA filled the gap with different interviews--starting with interviews with senior managers and engineers. Once school hours started, focus changed to science segments aimed at primary school students, including, to my delight a segment focusting on an AU classmate's science experiment (spiderwebs in space) which had been carried on a previous mssion.

A bit after 11, the countdown finally started--and to be honest, while the divided trail was noticeable, there wasn't anything preturbing (we expected the shuttle to shed engines as it went up--and the live video feed didn't clearly show the explosion). But then everything went silent and stayed silent. The happy chatter didn't return, nobody said a thing. Slowly, you could hear the crowd talking very quietly among themselves--but nobody moved from their seats. A few minutes later, a friend came by and said she'd heard on the radio that the shuttle exploded. Finally, a young man's voice quietly said that they were awaiting update from mission control.

Three years later, I ended up meeting the man who made that announcement in a grad school class. He said that in the weeks up to that, the NASA PR dept had become close with the mission team--so they'd shut down the mics as everyone realized the truth started crying. Then they realized America's primary schools were watching the launch--and it took all his strength to regain composure and to talk to the children listening.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | January 28, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

ViennaBelle, I was at AU when this happened. What dorm did you work?

Posted by: stwasm | January 28, 2011 1:16 PM | Report abuse

When the shuttle accident occured, space missions seemed so commonplace, they hardly got notice. Normally, I would not have bothered to have watched a launch--they weren't commonly carried by major tv stations and frankly--they weren't usually very notable.

However, this time, I was working an early morning shift as dormitory receptionist at American University. There was a tiny tv provided for keeping sleepy attendants awake--and usually, the only things on tv in the early hours before 6 am were televangelist broadcasts. But one of the local public broadcasting stations picked up the NASA feed, so I watched it, when it started at about 4 am. It was of interest to me, since I had just accepted an elementary school teaching job and wanted to see Cristi McCauliffe's educational programming, which was to proceed the blast-off.

As I recall, it started with the crew came back by and said goodbye as they boarded the shuttle. After that, there was a very long wait for the countdown. NASA filled the gap with different interviews--starting with interviews with senior managers and engineers. Once school hours started, focus changed to science segments aimed at primary school students, including, to my delight a segment focusting on an AU classmate's science experiment (spiderwebs in space) which had been carried on a previous mssion.

A bit after 11, the countdown finally started--and to be honest, while the divided trail was noticeable, there wasn't anything preturbing (we expected the shuttle to shed engines as it went up--and the live video feed didn't clearly show the explosion). But then everything went silent and stayed silent. The happy chatter didn't return, nobody said a thing. Slowly, you could hear the crowd talking very quietly among themselves--but nobody moved from their seats. A few minutes later, a friend came by and said she'd heard on the radio that the shuttle exploded. Finally, a young man's voice quietly said that they were awaiting update from mission control.

Three years later, I ended up meeting the man who made that announcement in a grad school class. He said that in the weeks up to that, the NASA PR dept had become close with the mission team--so they'd shut down the mics as everyone realized the truth started crying. Then they realized America's primary schools were watching the launch--and it took all his strength to regain composure and to talk to the children listening.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | January 28, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

ViennaBelle, I was at AU when this happened. What dorm did you work?

Posted by: stwasm | January 28, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I was having lunch during a visit with colleagues at the Naval Research Lab. Our reaction was really a shoulder shrug. We all agreed that spaceflight was an inherently dangerous affair, and such an accident would certainly happen sooner or later. We looked at the TV, talked about it for 5 minutes, then got back to work.

Not that any of us thought the risks were not worth taking. Or that we were without sympathy for the families. Especially for Ms. McAuliffe, a school teacher did not have the sort of background that lets astronauts make a truly informed decision to accept the risks involved.

To this day, I cannot understand how so many people managed to feel somehow betrayed, and the elaborate blame game in the aftermath.

Posted by: johnr5436 | January 28, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I was walking past a bus stop on GA. Ave. when a young lady listening to the radio stopped me in tears and asked had I heard about the space shuttle? I said no, what happened. She was in tears and said it blew up. I wouldn't have believed her if she wasn't crying. I ran home and watched it on TV. I'll never forget the look on the faces of Christa McCauliffe's parents.

Posted by: PepperDr | January 28, 2011 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I was a budding high school science teacher who had taken the morning off to watch the launch and to conduct some family business. Running late, I pulled a small TV around to the bathroom door, to watch while showering. When the explosion occurred, I wilted to the floor crying. That afternoon the school was filled with sadness, and I tossed my lesson plans on inertia and angular momentum for an open discussion about risk, rewards, and grief.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | January 28, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Living in Jacksonville, FL I was able to see the arc and flash of light as shuttles launched from the Kennedy Space Center in central Florida.

I moved to NJ shortly before the Challenger launch. At this time I was teaching at a US Navy technical school in Lakehurst, NJ. We had a TV in the Instructor's Lounge and remembered to time my break around launch time. I recall how TV launches were not as spectacular as seeing them in person. I remember standing there in silence in the lounge for what seemed like hours as the Challenger went through the "throttle-up" call and its subsequent demise.

I do agree with some of the comments about the inherent dangers of space flight; however, while we do embrace those dangers, the loss of life no matter how it comes is something to honor and remember.

Posted by: BillY17 | January 28, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I was in high school and our class was in study hall. A friend who worked in the Audio Visual Room walked in and told our biology teacher, who was watching the study hall, that something bad happened to the Challenger. Our teacher told him to stop kidding. He said he wasn't. The whole class dashed to the AV Room and watched the confusion and follow on news reports. The principal came on the speaker and sent everyone home. I vaguely remember Tom Brokow tearing up on air as he was reporting it.

What most people don't know, is that the spectators watching didn't realize it had blown up. They were very confused at first. The news reported the explosion then the reaction when people realized it had blown up, but there was a pause, a space where no one knew what was going on. Very sad.

Posted by: etriscari | January 28, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Overslept my freshman Fortran class (due to a hangover) and decided to watch the launch on my dorm tv before my Statics class at Rutgers.
Remember being stunded watching the explosion and hearing one of girls down the hall yelling "oh my god" over and over.


Nobody in my Statics class would believe me when I told them until the professor cancelled class when he showed up.

Posted by: MadiganT | January 28, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I was in 3rd grade at Somerset Elementary School watching with my classmates in Mrs. Walker's class. One of our teachers, Ms. Billy (I think), was a finalist for the teacher in space program. So the launch was met with great excitement throughout the school and with devastation after it exploded. It was not a good month for a variety of reasons.

Posted by: mjwies11 | January 28, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I was working at Goddard Space Flight Center that day on a different Robotic Spacecraft program and a friend and I stopped to watch the launch in the viewing room on our way out to lunch. At some point in the first few seconds when the video switched to the SRBs we both noticed a reddish flame coming out the side of one the SRBs and almost in unison said to each other that doesn't look right. And of course it was not right.
I had a chilling feeling and seconds later we saw that huge white cloud and the SRBs flying away on their own and then the NASA commentator announces "Flight dymanics reports the vehicle had exploded" we were both in shock. We went back to work and everyone else were in a similiar state. Grimest day of my career at NASA.

Posted by: RFRBoy2 | January 28, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I was in my parents' living room, in Brooklyn, where my oldest brother and I had just returned from a treacherous, icy ride back from the cemetery that morning where we had been selecting a grave site for my father, who had died the day before after a two month post-bypass struggle. My middle brother studied astrophysics, and so gave the whole family a special interest in space. We turned on the television to watch the shuttle launch to help get our minds off the what was to come that day - the service, the trip to the cemetery with my father's body, the burial. And so we watched the launch, and the explosion. These two events - the sudden explosion of the shuttle and the long slow death of my father - are forever linked in my memory and in the sadness of my heart.

Posted by: racharo | January 29, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Weird but true: I was in a cab in New York on my way to the World Trade Center for an administrative hearing (I was a young lawyer in NY at the time). The cab driver told me about it. I rode up that endless elevator at the WTC thinking about it, with such sadness. How bizarre that 15 years later I was watching the WTC towers collapse -- by then I was living in Boston. National calamities separated by so many years but joined in my mind, by pure coincidence.

Posted by: bw06 | January 29, 2011 10:04 PM | Report abuse

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