CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — About 50,000 schoolchildren honored the seven Challenger astronauts today, two days before the first anniversary of their deaths, and paid tribute as well to the three Apollo 1 astronauts killed 20 years ago Tuesday.
"They meant a lot to all of us," said Carrie Coultry, a fifth grader at Challenger 7 Elementary School at Port St. John, near the Kennedy Space Center. "It was really bad what happened to the Challenger (but) the space program shouldn't stop, it should go on."
Students at 67 Brevard County schools participated in simultaneous ceremonies today, hoisting flags dedicated to excellence in education. The flags were similar to one carried aboard Challenger by space teacher Christa McAuliffe.
"She was a true teacher to everybody and we all miss her," Carrie said.
Mike Crawford, a sixth grader at Challenger 7, said he remembered Challenger's crew "as a group of brave people who risked their lives because they had a special dream to go into space."
Seven bundles of balloons were released in memory of the Challenger astronauts, and parents, teachers and students sang "America."