The parents of New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe stared in utter disbelief today as they watched the shuttle Challenger explode and fall into the Atlantic Ocean. Then they wept.
Edward and Grace Corrigan of Framingham, Mass., watched the launch from a VIP viewing site three miles from Launch Pad 39B.
They cheered along with the rest of the crowd at the site as Challenger lifted off the pad and soared skyward. But their smiles and cheers turned to faces of horror as the orbiter blew apart about two minutes after launch.
Husband, Children at Cape
McAuliffe’s attorney husband, Steve, and their two children, Scott, 9, and Caroline, 6, were also in the crowd watching at Cape Canaveral.
Also there were members of Scott’s third grade class from Concord, N.H., displaying a large “Go Christa” banner.
They watched in stunned silence as the spacecraft blew apart.
A hushed, chilled silence fell over the crowd of viewers.
“O my God!” cried one woman.
“No! No! No!” pleaded another.
Watched Ball of Flame
With looks of shock, the Corrigans watched as a bright orange ball of flame shot from the shuttle.
They continued to stare skyward in disbelief as streams of contrail and pieces of the shuttle fell toward Earth.
They stood silently, arm in arm, and remained standing together as the loudspeaker brought the bad news and a NASA official climbed a couple of rows into the bleachers, walked to them and said: “The vehicle has exploded.”
A stunned Grace Corrigan looked back at him and repeated his words as a question.
“The vehicle has exploded?”
He nodded silently and the Corrigans were quickly led away.
Others at the viewing site walked away in silence. Some sobbed; others merely stared in horror. Schoolchildren, squealing with delight only seconds earlier, were sobbing uncontrollably.