FORT MYERS, FL - On January 28, 1986 space shuttle Challenger burst into flames after just 73 seconds into flight. All seven crew members in the shuttle died. 26 years later, Americans who witnessed it remember it vividly. The WINK News facebook page lists more than 60 comments of those who recall where they were that day. Many of them tell us, they were inside a classroom getting ready to watch Christa McAuliffe become the first teacher to enter space. Tragically, that never happened. McAuliffe and the other 6 astronauts aboard the shuttle perished when Challenger exploded. Investigators later blamed the disaster on a brittle O-ring. But on the night of January 28th, a solemn President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation from the oval office.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss."
Reagan ended the speech with words that many still remember more than two decades later.
""We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
Challenger and its crew still live on today. In Southwest Florida alone, there are two schools that honor the two: Cape Coral's Christa McAuliffe Elementary and Challenger Middle School.