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They Belong to Stars

February 16, 1986

Jan. 28 brought back some old and unhappy memories--the Kennedy assassination and the jet crash in San Diego.

I remember the shock and aftershocks. At work my thoughts turned to 10-year-old Russ and 8-year-old Megan, our kids. They both had talked about how neat it was that a teacher would be on the Challenger and would actually televise lessons from space. I thought about the shuttle and how that shape had become so familiar to children in models, toys, cutout books, etc. It has fashioned a connection between now and the future for us and our kids. On the way home, I wondered what I could tell them, how to make a terrible situation somehow better. As I walked into our living room, Russ and Megan were seated firmly in front of the television. Both had puffy eyes and red faces. The terrible explosion had just been replayed. I hoped I was up to the task of trying to put a parental bandage on a difficult-to-understand hurt. Russ looked up and said, "Dad, the teacher was killed on the Challenger with the other six astronauts." The reality hit me again and I tried to start by saying, "Yes, I know. Let's talk about it."

In the next several seconds a 10-year-old solved my problem and helped me see past the horror of the moment. "Dad, I think the constellation Orion should be for them. It could be for the seven that died and for the ones that might."

We went outside and looked up at Orion. Seven brilliant stars, named for the Hunter. Just looking up and seeing that sight made me realize what they were going for was valid. Those seven people, at the millisecond of their deaths, would not have wanted to be anywhere else. As astronaut-teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe said to her students the day before, "Reach for the stars."

By dedicating this portion of the sky to their memory, Orion would also underline our determination to press on with what we must, because of what we are.

TRACY WALKER

Lakeside

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