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Families, Reagan Take Part in Observances : Americans Remember Challenger Crew

January 29, 1987|From Times Wire Services

The nation marked the first anniversary of the Challenger disaster with a series of memorial services and monument dedications to the memory of the seven fallen crew members.

In the chilly early afternoon Wednesday, families of five of the Challenger crew were joined by top space agency officials for a brief memorial service at Ft. Myer, Va. NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher and former astronaut Richard H. Truly, who now heads the space shuttle program, paid the principal tributes to the crew, Fletcher telling the families the Challenger crew "believed deeply in what they were doing together. They knew that by touching the future, they could help change tomorrow today."

The service was held in the austere chapel on the military post adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery where commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee and pilot Michael J. Smith are buried and where a monument to the crew will be erected later. Attending the service in addition to the Scobee and Smith families were relatives of crew members Ronald E. McNair, Judith A. Resnik, and Gregory B. Jarvis. Also killed in the accident were schoolteacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe and mission specialist Ellison S. Onizuka.

Shortly after the service, President Reagan spoke to employees of NASA installations across the country for 10 minutes. He hailed the crew members as heroes who "represented so much of the best that is in our land," and vowed to push ahead with the space program. "In the first moments of grief and shock, the bereaved families of the crew urged us to carry on and keep the space program moving forward. We owe it to them and to those whom we, too, lost to do just that," he said.

Comments From Glenn

On Capitol Hill, Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), one of the seven Mercury astronauts selected in 1959, sounded a similar note.

"I hope we will remember them on this anniversary with determination, and not with tears," he told a press conference. "Instead of merely mourning their passing, I believe we should celebrate their passion, for while the Challenger is gone, the challenge remains. And that challenge is to carry on the work for which those seven pioneering heroes have given their lives."

Employees of Morton Thiokol Inc., which built the booster rockets blamed for the disaster, observed two minutes of silence at the company's plant near Brigham City in northern Utah, and flags were lowered to half staff.

"There were no speeches, no ceremonies," said company spokesman Rocky Raab. "It was viewed as a very private moment. It was left up to the individual employees."

A private ceremony was held at Concord (N.H.) High School, where McAuliffe taught social science, and seven balloons were released outside the building.

Widow's Private Plans

Jarvis' widow, Marcia, shunned any public appearance on the anniversary. "I'm going to spend that day quietly on a trail somewhere . . . because we always did things outside," she said.

Onizuka's family planned a happier observance Saturday, gathering in Houston for a Hawaiian-style luau. "We promised Ellison a luau when he got back . . . and the luau never occurred," said Claude Onizuka, his younger brother.

The Washington state Senate unanimously adopted a resolution honoring the "bravery and citizenship" of Scobee, a Washington native, and Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich announced plans for an endowed scholarship in memory of McAuliffe, with a goal of $9 million in public and private money.

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