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Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars
Aired January 22, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin with a look at what's happening right now in the news.
A West Virginia town is still reeling from yesterday's news that searchers found the bodies of two missing miners. Meantime, a call for action as a Senate Committee begins hearings on mine safety tomorrow in Washington. Union and industry officials are expected to testify.
The crew of the Navy's U.S.S. Churchill captures a group of suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean. The Churchill fired warning shots in an effort to stop the ship. The suspects were captured and some arms were found, about 50 miles off the coast of Somalia.
Time now for "CNN PRESENTS: Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars." The space shuttle Challenger exploded 20 years ago this week. Tonight, for the first time, McAuliffe's family, friends and colleagues reveal a side of her we never new.
And at 9 p.m. eastern, it's "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight, Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha, she lived every mother's nightmare. Tonight, she shares her story of lose and her fight for justice.
And I'll see you at 10 p.m. eastern with the latest up-to-the- minute news on "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT." I'm Carol Lin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, I'm directing NASA to begin its search, in all of our elementary and secondary schools, and to choose as the first citizen passenger in the history of our space program, one of America's finest, a teacher.
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: If you want to brave and reach for the top of the sky and the farthest point on the horizon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: On January 28, 1986, just 73 seconds after lift-off, the shuttle Challenger exploded in mid-air. Seven astronauts lost their lives, including one civilian, a very dedicated teacher named Christa McAuliffe.
Welcome to "CNN PRESENTS." I'm Paul Zahn. Behind her infectious smile, her bubbly personality, Christa McAuliffe was also a woman of determination, a woman who wouldn't take no for an answer, a woman who spoke her mind.
In the film you're about to see, Christa's family, friends and colleagues speak candidly about their memories, their pain and the events surrounding the Challenger disaster.
It's an in-depth portrait of Christa McAuliffe. One you've never seen before.
CHRISTA MCAULIFFE: Good morning, this is Christa McAuliffe, live from the Challenger, and I'm going to be taking you through a field trip.
GRACE GEORGE CORRIGAN, CHRISTA'S MOTHER: She was my first child, I knew nothing about children and I just expect, oh, she can talk, she can do this. I mean, she did everything early. She was very nurturing right from the very, beginning.
LISA BRISTOL, CHRISTA'S SISTER: She taught me how to sew. She taught me how to knit. She taught me how to play the guitar.
BETSY CORRIGAN, CHRISTA'S SISTER: If you were driving with her, she'd be the first, you know, to put the clothesline out to make sure that you wouldn't go forward.
ZAHN: Sharon Christa Corrigan was born in Boston on September 2, 1948. She grew up in nearby Framingham, Massachusetts.
Her mother was a gifted artist. Her father was an accountant who liked to sing and play the piano. Both parents believed in the power of education.
MCAULIFFE: I'm the oldest of five children and I think, growing up, I had a lot of responsibility. We had a very close-knit family group.
And, I think, because my mother was literally a full-time volunteer, whether it was in church or community activities, I always had that feeling that other people were important in my life and that I always needed to give in order to feel good about my self.
You know, it had to -- you couldn't just live in that environment and be by yourself.
ZAHN: Friends caller her an incurable romantic, so they was little surprise when she fell in love at a young age.
Her best friend, Anne, introduced Christa to the new kid at school, who Christa thought, was really cute, Steve McAuliffe.
ANNE DONOVAN MALAVICH, CHRISTA'S BEST FRIEND: She met Steve and that was it. He was the one, in capital letters, the one.
ZAHN: Christa's most notorious date with Steve McAuliffe was the high school prom.
MALAVICH: Senior prom, yes. She wore a strapless dress, which is just a step above going to hell, you know, in 1966 in a Catholic school.
ZAHN: A memorable way to say goodbye to high school, though, not the only goodbye for Christa. Steve enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute and they kept up their relationship long distance. Christa stayed in her hometown and attended Framingham State, America's first teacher's college.
MARY LISCOMBE, CHRISTA'S COLLEGE FRIEND: She brought her dad to the college prom, you know, because Steve wasn't available. And it didn't bother her at all. It was like the most natural thing. If Steve was available, bring your dad.
ZAHN: To Ed Corrigan, the sun rose and set on his first born. She was, forever, Daddy's little girl. She was the world to him.
LISCOMBE: I can remember that a group of people were chosen to go to New York City to go to a science conference, at which time they're were actually a couple of NASA astronauts there. And Christa came back and said, "You know, I think I want to do that some day. I want to go into space someday."
And we all looked at her like she had two heads because this is, remember, 1966. There were no women in the space program. We wondering, "When are you going to learn how to fly?".
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: I want to get there.
She and Steve had decided if they could ever buy a ticket, they'd go, you know. They'd be the one's that'd say, "Hey, yes, we'll go. We'll go in space."
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: One who is touched by the sun. One who is touched by the sun.
ZAHN: Just weeks after graduation, on August 23, 1970, Christa Corrigan and Steve McAuliffe said the words they had been practicing for years, "I do." The newlyweds moved to Maryland where Steve entered Georgetown University law school and Christa began her career in education.
MCAULIFFE: I am delighted to be a representative of the teaching profession. But it wouldn't be anything unless the adults out there recognized that education was important and supported their schools, unless the teachers out there truly believed in what they were doing. And unless you kids out there do the best you can and get the best education you can. That's what it's all about.
LISCOMBE: If you read history at that time, it was all men. I mean, you'd swear that there were really no women -- Betsy Ross might have been mentioned as making a flag, you know. ZAHN: Christa's solution was to have her students read journals from pioneering women and encouraging them to keep diaries of their own.
While leaving in Maryland, Steve earned his law degree at Georgetown and Christa, her masters. Their son Scott was born in 1976, their daughter Caroline in 1979.
But after eight years away from home, the young family yearned to be closer to their roots and decided to return to New England. They moved just north of Framingham, Massachusetts, to Concord, New Hampshire.
LISCOMBE: They had built this wonderful life. They had two beautiful children. They knew where they were going. They knew what they wanted. They were working towards having it.
MCAULIFFE: There's two things I always tell my students when we start out the year. I say to them, we have a classroom based on mutual respect and the two things I ask of you is to be yourself and to do the best you can. And I figure, if I can follow my own creed in that, I'm going to be fine during that year.
TONY POTTER, FORMER STUDENT: She wouldn't stand for intolerance in the classroom and the bully's knew it. I distinctly remember when she mentioned the word "gay." And on top of that, she mentioned she knew gay people and that -- it was like a rock had been lifted off my chest.
You know, I felt like she could accept who I really am. If at least one person in the world would accept me, you know, it would be Mrs. McAuliffe.
ROBERT SILVA, ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT, CONCORD HIGH SCHOOL: She just had this talent for connecting with kids. Not just kids who were bright and self-directed and motivated, but kids who weren't sure where they were going and what they were doing.
MCAULIFFE: This year is a real special year for you because it's your last year in high school. But it's your beginning for what you're going to be doing in life. And you're going to be looking at all sorts of career opportunities. You're going to be looking at colleges. And you're going to say, "What am I going to do? What do I want to do?" Reach for it, you know. Go -- push yourself as far as you can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REAGAN: Today I'm directing NASA to begin a search, in all our elementary and secondary schools and to choose as the first citizen passenger in the history of our space program, one of America's finest, a teacher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE HALL, MANAGER, NASA: In the early 1980's, we were all very excited about making access to space very much like going to the airport and getting on an airliner and flying to grandma's house for Christmas.
MCAULIFFE: My husband and I were listening to the announcement and we both, at the same time, said, well, this obviously something you've got to try for.
And when I got the application, it was the old term paper phobia. And I looked at it. It was 15 pages. It was very long. I got it around the holiday time and my life was very, very busy, and I thought, oh, I'm never going to be able to get this done.
So, just like some of my students, I waited until the last minute and I put everything today and finally got up and literally mailed it -- it had to postmarked February 1st, and I think that's when I put it into the slot.
CHARLES FOLEY, PRINCIPAL, CONCORD HIGH SCHOOL: "Charlie, I'm going to -- you know that program about space and the teacher? I'm going to put an application in." "Oh, good Christa. OK. You know you have the support of your principal." And then, "Can you write a recommendation?" "Yes, I can write a recommendation." So I wrote a recommendation.
I just said, "I hope that whoever is selected is a teacher who is truly recognized for being a good teacher by the people she works among, and we can do that for Christa McAuliffe. You can't do better."
ZAHN: Nearly 12,000 teachers from all across the country had applied to NASA. Only 114 of them, less than one percent, were selected to continue in the competition.
In June 1985, the finalists were sent to Washington, D.C., for a new round of interviews with a new group of judges, ranging from astronauts to television actors.
PAM DAWBER, ACTRESS AND TEACHER-IN-SPACE JUDGE: Knowing what the public attention can be after one becomes famous and, of course, whichever teacher was selected would become very famous, and all eyes of America would be on her.
CHARLES SPOSATO, TEACHER-IN-SPACE FINALIST: One of things that went to your head was, every time we opened the door, there was a reporter there asking how we felt about something. I mean, the "New York Times" was writing about us.
ZAHN: The next round of eliminations narrowed the teacher-in- space finalist to 10. Among them was 36-year-old Christa McAuliffe.
The lucky 10 were off to Johnson Space Center in Houston for two weeks of intense physical and psychological testing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes.
MCAULIFFE: Oh, it's beautiful. ZAHN: After nearly a year since the search began for the first civilian to fly in space, the judges voted. Their decision was unanimous.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the winner Christa McAuliffe.
MCAULIFFE: It's not often that a teacher is at a loss for words. I know my students wouldn't think so. I've made nine wonderful friends over the last two weeks. And when that shuttle goes, there might be one body, but there's going to be 10 souls that I'm taking with me. Thank you.
COLLEEN HUGHES, RADIO ANNOUNCER, WKOX: America's first teacher in space will be Framingham native Christa McAuliffe. She was chosen today in ceremonies at the White House.
This was a big deal. It was so big because it touched so many people in Framingham. If you didn't know Mr. and Mrs. Corrigan, you went to school with Christa at Marion or Framingham State, or you knew her siblings. Everybody had a story to tell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing I've been requested is to have Christa direct the band in their next selection. This -- believe me, the director made that a special request. And anybody who can fly in space, Mr. Giles (ph) has said could direct his band. Christa McAuliffe, conductor.
ZAHN: New England was flying high. Christa was on her war to space and the Patriots were on their way to the Super Bowl.
STEVE GROGAN, QUARTERBACK, PATRIOTS FOOTBALL TEAM: I remember a lot of people being around her. And, normally as a player, when you come up, people want to be around you, and she was kind of stealing the spotlight, so to speak. She was a bigger celebrity that day than those of us that played in the game.
JOHNNY CARSON, HOST, "TONIGHT SHOW": What subject do you teach, by the way?
MCAULIFFE: Well, I teach an economics course.
MCAULIFFE: I teach law.
CARSON: Right. Oh, OK.
MCAULIFFE: I teach a course that I developed called "The American Woman," which is a social history.
MCAULIFFE: And then I teach American history to 11th and 12th graders.
CARSON: What are you going to be doing in space?
MCAULIFFE: I'll be teaching three lessons from the shuttle. I'll be teaching a lesson in science, one in humanities and another one.
CARSON: From the shuttle?
MCAULIFFE: Yes. And anybody who has the satellite dish will be able to see the teacher teaching from space.
CARSON: I'll check in with you. I remember a few teachers, when I was kid, I would have loved to seen go into outer space. Congratulations.
MCAULIFFE: Thank you.
LISCOMBE: Christa was the person your eyes went to. She had a certain charisma that, when there was a group of them walking towards you, you would look at her.
DAWBER: And that's sort of just magic. She was a real person who had a reason for being there. And it was to communicate. She was a communicator. That's why she got the job.
MCAULIFFE: I would like to humanize the space age by giving a perspective from a non-astronaut, because I think the students will look at that and say, "This is an ordinary person. This ordinary person is contributing to history."
ZAHN: NASA also selected a back-up teacher to undergo the training with Christa, Barbara Morgan of Idaho.
BARBARA MORGAN, BACK-UP TEACHER, TEACHER-IN-SPACE FINALIST: Christa and I used to kind of tease that the reason she and I happened to be picked was it would be somebody from New Hampshire, somebody from Idaho or somebody from Arkansas or Louisiana, because they lowest paid teachers at the time. And NASA was reimbursing our school for our salaries.
MCAULIFFE: Life this, in these containers, Claude, has experiments in them on the real flights.
CLAUDE: Where to?
MCAULIFFE: So that they'll be...
MICHELE BREKKE, FLIGHT DIRECTOR, NASA: If there's any one thing for a person, a woman, who was plucked out of a classroom for an incredibly challenging and stressful thing to do, she fit right in.
MCAULIFFE: I did it. And I accomplished with having absolutely no idea that I was going get this far. If I can this far, you know, you can do it too. And I really hope you have a wonderful year and I'm going to miss all of you. Thanks a lot.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: There are so many stars.
ZAHN: Christa rounded the crew selected to fly aboard space shuttle Challenger. Pilot Mike Smith, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnic, Greg Jarvis and Commander Dick Scobee.
MCAULIFFE: Hey, Joe, that's really neat. They do all collect.
BREKKE: Her payload was education. She herself was the payload and she was carrying experiments that were typical kinds of experiments that a teacher would conduct in a classroom. And the shuttle was going to her classroom in space.
MCAULIFFE: It's hard for kids to realize that you can build something that's not attached to anything. But in zero gravity you can do that or, in space, you can do that. So that at that point I wanted to be able to let it go.
BREKKE: It was very important to her to write her own lesson plan. And I don't remember all the details but there was some headquarters involvement. And, you know, they had their ideas on what Christa would do, but she made it clear that she had her ideas on what she should be doing as the teacher in space in this classroom in space.
MORGAN: You just would never script out what you're going to say. And we would laugh and say, you know, we're not -- And then Christa would say, "Well, you know, I'm not an actress. You know, I'm not pretending I'm a teacher. I am a teacher and teachers don't do this."
MCAULIFFE: I'm much more comfortable in -- when I'm teaching in front of a classroom. I'm much more comfortable talking about something and doing something at the same time. And that's not distracting for kids if you're talking about the thing that you're doing. It's OK.
All right. Take your first big walk in zero gravity. First big walk. Oh, it's fun.
ZAHN: The KC135 aircraft giving astronauts the experience of weightlessness in zero gravity is finally nicknamed the Vomit Comet.
MORGAN: The tradition around here, after you're first KC135 flight, and after actually many of them, you go over and have lunch or dinner at Pe-Te's.
LES "PE-TE" JOHNSON, OWNER, PE-TE'S RESTAURANT: Good feed. Just like the astronauts like to eat whenever they come down from zero chasing (ph).
RON MCNAIR, ASTRONAUT, CHALLENGER CREW: All right, at this time, I'd like to introduce you to perhaps the person you came to see and that's Christa McAuliffe, our payload specialist teacher in space.
MCAULIFFE: Well, I am so excited to be here. We watched Columbia go over the Houston area this morning and that was a thrill. I don't think any teacher has ever been more ready to have two lessons in my life. I've been preparing these since September and I just hope everybody tunes in on day four, now, to watch the teacher teaching from space.
MALAVICH: That's when it really struck me. Oh, my God, she's actually going into space. And then I asked her if she was afraid. I said, "Aren't you afraid?" And she said, no. And she had complete faith in NASA, that they wouldn't let anything happen to her.
LIN: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin with a look at what's happening right now in the news.
A group of suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean captured by the U.S. Navy. The U.S.S. Churchill fired warning shots in an effort to stop the pirate ship. The suspects were captured and taken into custody about 50 miles off the coast of Somalia.
A spokeswoman says former President Gerald Ford will remain hospitalized in Rancho Mirage, California. She says his condition is, and I'm quoting here, "Not life threatening." Ford is 92-years-old. He was hospitalized eight days ago with Pneumonia.
Now, coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," Laci Peterson's mother, Sharon Rocha. Heartbreaking revelations about her loss and her fight for justice.
Right now, back to "CNN PRESENTS." It's been 20 years since the Challenger disaster. CNN takes a personal look at teacher-turned- astronaut Christa McAuliffe.
And I'll see you at 10 p.m. Eastern with the latest up-to-the- minute news on "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT." I'm Carol Lin.
C. MCAULIFFE: I haven't felt frightened, now I'm not sure how I'm going to feel when I'm sitting there waiting for takeoff and those solid rocket boosters ignite underneath me and everything starts to shake. But right now I think instead of being apprehensive I'm just very excited about doing it.
ZAHN: And that's what her family felt too, until the sixth launch delay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning Christa, how'd we do today?
G. CORRIGAN: All of a sudden you're starting to think NASA's supposed to know all these things. We thought that they knew all these things. And Christa called us the night before and she said no matter what mom, we're going the next day.
ZAHN: Florida was unseasonably cold that January with freezing temperatures. G. CORRIGAN: I did speak to her that morning, because I was concerned about the icicles. She said yes, it's going to go today. She said that's a definite. She said that because if it wasn't going today it would have to be delayed for months. My husband looked up at the shuttle and he could see the icicles, we all could and everybody was shivering, it was so cold.
We said oh if I could go there I'd take her off of it and I said she wouldn't come. She told me she had butterflies, I remember her saying she had some butterflies but she was excited. This is it, this is the day.
BRISTOL: Cold or not, they'll take care of the icicles and we're going.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... Ron McNair, Pilot Mike Smith followed by Christa McAuliffe, teacher in space, Ellison Onizuka and payload specialist Greg Jarvis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Minus 15 seconds, minus 10, nine, eight, seven, six, we have main engine start, four, three, two, one, and lift off, lift off of the 25th Space Shuttle mission and it has cleared the tower.
HALL: We're all hoping that the Challenger would come sailing out of that cloud of smoke intact and all would be well. And of course when that didn't happen within a few seconds or a minute, you know we knew it was pretty bad.
BRISTOL: We didn't know right away what had happened because we had never seen a liftoff before, so it was apparent to people around us, we could hear people crying and screaming and we really didn't know what happened.
DAN OTTO, SHUTTLE ENGINEER: Our screens, our computer screens that were monitoring the systems on the shuttle went blank and then we had "S", little S's that come across it and that's a security lockout and it means that we lost the lineup with the shuttle.
So we knew something was wrong and everybody's going abort (inaudible). And we said it's too early for abort (inaudible) it's not high enough in its orbit. Then people started talking about RTLS, which is return to launch site. But all that noise kind of faded because we realized there's no Challenger left to come back to the site at that time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Make sure you maintain all your data, start pulling it together.
G. CORRIGAN: Ed looked up and said she's gone. And I said, "She's really gone." You know, I mean it was just all of a sudden and then we think, oh, they're going to escape.
BRISTOL: When I heard over the speaker and they said there was a major malfunction, so that's when I think I realized there wasn't going to be any recovery. That it was gone. And I really didn't know what we were viewing in the sky and they kind of whisked us, just took the families and kind of whisked us off. They basically told us they were searching and of course we were hopeful, but... a long couple of hours.
G. CORRIGAN: It was mostly concern with holding everybody together and my husband was horribly angry, he was so angry I was scared he was going to have a heart attack. And they took us into where all the families were. The doctor kept coming over to Ed and he kept looking at him and Ed kept, wouldn't have anything to do with them.
You know, he just didn't want anybody around him, nobody knew what to say, what to do, and you had that very, very, faint hope that maybe, like at that time we didn't have that great relations with the Russians, everybody said maybe the Russians have them. You know, it was just anything to pull on that maybe possibly...
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dick, Mike, Judy, El, Ron, Greg and Christa... your families and your country mourn your passing, we bid you goodbye... we will never forget you.
KIT CORRIGAN, CHRISTA'S BROTHER: I hear your voice across the sky, I hear your voice in a lullaby, you hold my hand like I am there, so good night my sister, you belong deep within the stars. I can hear you where you are. You might have gone, but here you are.
ZAHN: Two months after the explosion, the crew capsule was found intact on the ocean floor.
HALL: It was very hard to talk about for me. They probably were not killed in the initial explosion, but lost consciousness in 15 seconds maybe. Certainly the impact when the cockpit hit the water was the fatal blow. On that day in January we were ignorant, quite frankly. And we thought it was a good day to go fly, and it wasn't.
ZAHN: Investigations conclude that some engineers knew it wasn't a good day to fly and tried to warn NASA managers. The freezing temperatures caused an o-ring attached to the shuttle's right solid rocket booster to fail... this allowed the rocket's own flame to leak through the damaged ring and ignite the shuttle's main fuel tank. Both human and material failures created the catastrophe.
DAWBER: In a way this was a big publicity stunt to get the public's attention again and focus it back on the space program. Everyone felt a little bit of guilt that we had participated in this thing that was so wrong.
BRISTOL: People that had this outpouring of sympathy to us and our family for losing her because I think they felt, knowing Christa, seeing Christa, I think they kind of grieved along with us that knowing what a great loss it was.
B. CORRIGAN: It's a very different sense of mourning, because you're just out there. And people that you've never seen before that your sister touched so deeply like you know crying, explaining how they saddened they are, I mean yes, it's very touching and it's very moving but it's very difficult at the same time.
ZAHN: Two resting places exist for Christa McAuliffe, one in Concord, New Hampshire and another at Arlington National Cemetery, where the unidentified remains of Challenger's crew are buried together.
HALL: They did recover the crew compartment and personal mementos that... every astronaut took this small package that they could take of personal mementos on the flight and those were all recovered. You know other than the damage that they had in the salt water it was pretty much in tact.
ZAHN: NASA released Christa's possessions to her husband. Among the things she had taken on board was a Carly Simon cassette, Christa found the music soothing and felt it would comfort her in space.
Christa also brought along treasured keepsakes, some she planned to return their owners after her historic flight into outer space. The items were a touching portrait of Christa's life, her best friend's girl scout pin, her sister's ring, school flags, a photo of the entire 1986 student body from her high school alma mater.
B. CORRIGAN: Oh yeah my Claddagh ring that I got in Ireland.
ZAHN: Did you get it back?
B. CORRIGAN: Heck no. It went with the rest of them. Why would I have gotten that back, that was on the Challenger.
ZAHN: We were told that everything was recovered.
B. CORRIGAN: Well if it was recovered it's not in my possession, maybe that's something that was like you know top secret or whatever, I don't know. I just assumed it went.
BRISTOL: I felt this great loss a huge sense of loss and sadness and you know her message to me was I've been here all the time, I never left I'm still here.
B. CORRIGAN: We didn't celebrate Christmas, because my dad's birthday was on Christmas so he was very upset about obviously what happened and so for the first maybe two or three or even five years no we didn't have a tree, we didn't, you don't want to celebrate, I mean because it doesn't feel right.
ZAHN: Ed Corrigan died on January 25, 1990, doctors blamed cancer but others felt that he had died from a broken heart. The absence of any personal apology to him from NASA had only deepened his bitterness. Following his death, his widow Grace found several handwritten notes by Ed on what he had called NASA'S ineptitude.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I have been angry since January 28, 1986, the day Christa was killed. My daughter was not an astronaut, she did not die for NASA and the space program, she died because of NASA. I'm sure that if anyone advised her how flawed NASA management was, she never would have risked leaving her husband and children. My attitude I'm sure differs from that of astronaut spouses and families, I feel no allegiance to NASA."
MALAVICH: You don't want to say you killed my best friend, you don't want to feel that way, but there's a piece of you that does and then there's also the piece of you that knows Christa thought it was important and you know she trusted them and she felt good about them and she had a wonderful experience with NASA and the training, so we feel a little torn. And Christa wasn't one who would dwell on negative things, you know, she would say, alright, it happened it's over, let's move on. So, it does seem futile and pointless to stay angry for all this time.
C. MCAULIFFE: I'm going to be standing right here because Dick's going to be in this seat and Mike is going to be kind of balanced to his right, with the smock on his lap...
BREKKE: What I do know is her heart was into this... she wanted to fly in space, she wanted to be a teacher in space, she wanted to conduct the classroom in space. In her mind, whatever that meant, she was willing to accept that.
STEVE MCAULIFFE, CHRISTA'S HUSBAND: One thing I would like you to understand this morning and I think you must understand, is that Christa was the most selfless person I had ever met, and I don't know anyone who knew Christa who wouldn't say the same thing. She understood and appreciated at every moment of her experience that she served in a representative capacity.
But she also understood and appreciated every moment that her mission was to do everything she could to give education a worthy personification. If you sit on the sidelines, reflect back on Christa as hero or as glorious representative or canonized saint, rather than putting your entire energies into accomplishing for her what she wanted to do, then I think her efforts will have been in vain.
ZAHN: Steve McAuliffe moved out of the home he had once shared with Christa and into a new house just around the corner. He enrolled Scott and Caroline in private schools, kept clear of the media and distanced himself from people who loved him.
B. CORRIGAN: I don't know the reasons why, but I guess in his defense I mean understand that you tend to kind of like withdraw when things that are devastating happen to you. And you withdraw to your comfort level which is your immediate family and I think that's probably what he did.
ZAHN: The small city of Concord, the town Christa had loved so much, seemed to take its cue from Steve's silence. The city's reticence continues to this day.
ROBERT VEILLEUX, N.H. TEACHER IN SPACE FINALIST: The whole Concord district don't want to talk about it, don't go there. It's like almost pretending it didn't happen.
FOLEY: Steve kept a very low profile after that, Steve was very traumatized by them, I don't want to go into that at all. SILVA: There was a lot of anger at the time that resulted in the kind of withdrawal. People simply didn't want to talk about it, they were just the opposite of what she was all about, which was, you know outgoing and sharing and connecting. For many of us I think in this area it's going to go down in history as a tragedy for us, like kind of an unfulfilled promise.
ZAHN: Seventy-five miles away from Concord the time of Framingham provides a stark contrast. Here in Christa's hometown her memory lives on. She remains the town's most celebrated daughter.
FATHER MAGUIRE, ST. JEREMIAH CHURCH: For the rest of history those bells will ring in her memory.
FATHER O'CONNOR, ST. JEREMIAH CHURCH: There's something in a scripture that says you shouldn't yell, let your light shine out and she did it.
ZAHN: Christa's mother Grace travels tirelessly to schools all over the world, bringing children her daughter's message, the importance of education and space.
G. CORRIGAN: If I didn't do it, she'd be saying to me, okay ma, hey I'm not here, you know, it's up to you to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE STUDENT: Were you mad at NASA when this happened or did you think that this was just anything, was this just like a normal mistake?
G. CORRIGAN: Well, you know, a lot of people were very, very angry and very, very mad. And I never really felt mad, I always felt just very sad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: My name is Sara and I was wondering, when her kids were old enough to understand, how were they like feeling, did they understand?
G. CORRIGAN: That's a good question. You know, Caroline was six years old when Christa went into the program and Scott was nine. So Caroline was a little bit, she was really, kept waiting for her mother to come home, it was difficult for her. And Scott did understand pretty much because he was nine years old at the time. But they were both, of course very young, so it was very difficult for them.
ZAHN: Steve McAuliffe eventually remarried and became a federal judge. Christa's son Scott is a multimedia designer, he married in 2004. Christa's daughter Caroline attended a teacher's college like her mother and loves working with children.
G. CORRIGAN: When Christa did pass over, she was right where she wanted to be. You know talk about flying high, you know what I'm saying, she was doing what she wanted to do, she was loved by millions and supported by millions and it didn't turn out the way we all wanted it to, but I just feel that you know I would never, I would never say I wish she hadn't done it. I would never say that. ZAHN: Christa is the subject of songs, books and plays. Established in Christa's name are countless scholarship and fellowship programs. There are more than 40 Christa McAuliffe schools around the world, at a growing number of Challenger learning centers.
LISCOMBE: Christa's the most famous graduate other than Liz Wakefield who invented chocolate chip cookies. I swear, she just sits on people's shoulders and she sits on mine most days.
C. MCAULIFFE: I touch the future, I teach, and I really appreciate that sentiment and that's going to go with me. How long does it take to orbit, it takes about 90 minutes to go around the whole world. So what I'm going to do while I'm up there we'll go about 17,000 miles an hour, it's going to take 15 minutes to cross the United States. When we get into California, right on top of California, one day I'm going to get on the treadmill and I'm going to run until we get over the eastern part of the United States where I can say I made it across the United States in 15 minutes.
ZAHN: Christa McAuliffe may not have reached her destination, but she has accomplished her mission.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE STUDENT: Christa McAuliffe is brilliant and smart and loved to teach with all her heart. Reach for the stars she would often say, we will remember her journey day after day.
G. CORRIGAN: Oh that is absolutely lovely, thank you, may I have it? Thank you very, very much.
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