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Text of President's Eulogy of the Challenger 7: 'True Heroes'

February 01, 1986|Associated Press

HOUSTON — Here is a transcript of President Reagan's remarks Friday at a memorial service for the Challenger crew at Johnson Space Center:

We come together today to mourn the loss of seven brave Americans, to share the grief that we all feel and, perhaps in that sharing, to find the strength to bear our sorrow and the courage to look for the seeds of hope.

Our nation's loss is first a profound personal loss to the family, and the friends and the loved ones of our shuttle astronauts.

To those they have left behind--the mothers, the fathers, the husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and, yes, especially the children--all of America stands beside you in your time of sorrow.

Words Pale in Shadow of Grief

What we say today is only an inadequate expression of what we carry in our hearts.

Words pale in the shadow of grief; they seem insufficient even to measure the brave sacrifice of those you loved and we so admired.

Their truest testimony will not be in the words we speak but in the way they lived their lives and in the way they lost their lives--with dedication, honor and an unquenchable desire to explore this mysterious and beautiful universe.

The best we can do is remember our seven astronauts--our Challenger Seven--remember them as they lived, bringing life and love and joy to those who knew them and pride to a nation.

They came from all parts of this great country--from South Carolina to Washington state; Ohio to Mohawk, N.Y.; Hawaii to North Carolina to Concord, N.H. They were so different, yet in their mission, their quest, they held so much in common.

We remember Dick Scobee, the commander who spoke the last words we heard from the space shuttle Challenger. He served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, earning many medals for bravery, and later as a test pilot of advanced aircraft, before joining the space program. Danger was a familiar companion to Commander Scobee.

We remember Michael Smith, who earned enough medals as a combat pilot to cover his chest, including the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, in gratitude from a nation he fought to keep free.

We remember Judith Resnik, known as J. R. to her friends, always smiling, always eager to make a contribution, finding beauty in the music she played on her piano in her off hours.

Dreamed of Traveling to Moon

We remember Ellison Onizuka, who, as a child running barefoot through the coffee fields and macadamia groves of Hawaii, dreamed of someday traveling to the moon. Being an Eagle Scout, he said, had helped him soar to the impressive achievements of his career.

We remember Ronald McNair, who said that he learned perseverance in the cotton fields of South Carolina. His dream was to live aboard the space station, perform experiments and play his saxophone in the weightlessness of space. Well, Ron, we will miss your saxophone and we will build your space station.

We remember Gregory Jarvis. On that ill-fated flight he was carrying with him a flag of his university in Buffalo, N.Y.--a small token, he said, to the people who unlocked his future.

We remember Christa McAuliffe, who captured the imagination of the entire nation, inspiring us with her pluck, her restless spirit of discovery; a teacher, not just to her students but to an entire people, instilling us all with the excitement of this journey we ride into the future.

We Will Cherish Their Stories

We will always remember them, these skilled professionals, scientists and adventurers, these artists and teachers and family men and women, and we will cherish each of their stories--stories of triumph and bravery, stories of true American heroes.

On the day of the disaster, our nation held a vigil by our television sets. In one cruel moment, our exhilaration turned to horror; we waited and watched and tried to make sense of what we had seen. That night, I listened to a call-in program on the radio. People of every age spoke of their sadness and the pride they felt in "our astronauts." Across America, we are reaching out, holding hands, and finding comfort in one another.

The sacrifice of your loved ones has stirred the soul of our nation and, through the pain, our hearts have been opened to a profound truth: the future is not free, the story of all human progress is one of a struggle against all odds. We learned again that this America, which Abraham Lincoln called the last best hope of man on Earth, was built on heroism and noble sacrifice. It was built by men and women like our seven star voyagers, who answered a call beyond duty, who gave more than was expected or required, and who gave it with little thought of worldly reward.

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