Challenger Remembered
A Nation Mourns the Loss of Seven Heroes

Image of Flowers at the Johnson Space Center Sign

Few events have brought our nation together in spirit like the Challenger Accident. The weeks following the tragedy saw an outpouring of public emotion and grief unmatched since the assassination of President Kennedy. The photo at left shows one aspect of that national unified grief. Flowers and wreaths were placed by the sign at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas shortly after the accident. Similar acts of respect and remembrance occurred at other NASA facilities around the country.

Seventy-three seconds into the mission, Challenger exploded and fell into the sea. On April 29, 1986 the identified remains that had been located were turned over to their families for burial. However, there were a number of unidentified remains. On June 12, 1986, Congress passed a resolution to construct a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the Challenger crew. The remains were laid to rest at Arlington on May 20, 1986, beneath the Memorial that appears below. Two of the crewmembers, Francis Scobee and Michael Smith, were buried in Arlington National Cemetery as well.

An inscription of a beautiful poem appears on the memorial at Arlington. It is titled "High Flight" and was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. It reads as follows:

Image of the Challenger Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary
Wikimedia Commons User dbking / CC BY 2.0

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 into the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through the footless hall of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wingswept height with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The untrespassed sanctify of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

In the days following the accident, editorial cartoon artists around the world turned their attention to Challenger and her crew. The following cartoons appeared in our local newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel on January 29, 1986. They were created by their local editorial artist, Dana Summers:

Challenger Editorial Cartoon   Challenger Editorial Cartoon

Children always have trouble dealing with loss, but they can be amazingly resilient and thoughtful. After the accident, school children from every part of the globe sent letters to NASA administrators. The following poems and messages were written by school children shortly after the loss of the Challenger crew. They were sent to the Johnson Space Center to encourage the families of the crew and the Space Center employees:

Love for NASA

Love is sharing your happiness and your family, friends, and other people's pain. Love is sharing your love, joy, and peace. Love is caring for others and helping others. THAT IS WHY I SHARE MY LOVE WITH YOU. Happy Valentine Day Love, Tara

Dear NASA, I think the whole country is feeling bad because your greatest creation blew up. I hope that you will be able to construct a new Shuttle that will be better than the last one. Sincerely, Brandon Kovach

7 have died, Many have cried, There's something I should say, and that is It's OK!  Jasen Secrest

All Gone Today

They are all gone today, The Challenger Crew Has Gone Away There is Nothing I can say. That says how bad I feel today. Matt

To those seven who now live in heaven We thank you for giving your lives For the living. We salute you as we stand. We will lend you a helping hand. Now we see faith in your eyes For you, for all, and for those who died. Glenn Prince I'd like to go up in the sky Beyond the stars where planets lie To see the craters of the Moon Where we might all live someday soon.

I'd like to see where the astronauts land And where the flag stands in the sand Up where those seven brave people went And just for us, their lives they spent. Julie Girvin