A look back: Where were you when the Challenger disaster happened in 1986?

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WASHINGTON -- NASA's first in-flight tragedy decades ago brings back haunting memories.

January 28 marks three decades since the space shuttle Challenger disaster claimed the lives of its entire crew.

On board were seven team members who perished in the wreck, mission specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Ron McNair and Judith Resnick, payload specialist Greg Jarvis, pilot Mike Smith, commander Dick Scobee, and Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first civilian and teacher in space.

There are many who can still recall where they were when the shuttle exploded -- the result of a failure in the seals on one of the solid rocket boosters, it was later determined.

In many ways, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was like President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 or the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It was a visceral moment for many Americans, and decades later it remains a tragedy that the country continues to remember.

On Facebook, people shared painful memories on the anniversary of the shuttle's accident.

Some were in school when the disaster happened.

"I was watching it in school and the teacher turned the TV off. I remember the kids really didn't react to it and didn't understand the gravity of what just happened," Mickey Lee Barandon shared on CNN's Facebook page.

"I was in the fourth grade... We watched it real time when Challenger exploded," Jade Mendiola wrote. "A couple kids started crying and school was dismissed early. I think that was the first day I learned about death."

Others remember the loss of their dreams.

"Every kid dreamed of being an astronaut," Joanie Joan McBurney remembered. "And then, without warning... Boom. Suddenly, all your dreams of living on Mars or exploring other galaxies was replaced with the reality of how dangerous being an astronaut can be."

For a generation, it was a pivotal moment in history.

"I was at work that day in Austin, Texas, the tragedy was announced over the PA system. It was as though time stopped. Almost like when Kennedy was killed," Jane Ring said.

2 comments

  • JP79

    I think every school in America had that on TV, I was in first grade and I can remember watching and when it exploded every one just looked at each other. The teachers took us back to our class rooms and shortly after we were all sent home. Sad day, an event in history many of us witnessed with our own eyes at the exact same time and will never forget.

  • 123

    I waa 5 getting ready for kindergarten. I heard my mom scream I thought someone broke in the house or something so went under my bed until I heard her talking on the phone to my grandpa.
    Then I think my neighbor friend told me what happened when they picked me up to go to school.
    Kinda vague only remember a little

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