Lives, Legacies Saluted on Challenger Anniversary

Sun Sentinel

The children of the seven astronauts who died three years ago aboard the space shuttle Columbia received an avalanche of condolences from around the world, including one read Saturday on the anniversary of an earlier shuttle tragedy.

The letter, written by Challenger Cmdr. Dick Scobee’s daughter Kathie, spoke of the difficulty of dealing personally with a tragedy so public.

“Everyone in the country felt like it happened to them too,” she wrote. “And it did. The Challenger explosion was a national tragedy. Everyone saw it. Everyone hurt. Everyone grieved. Everyone wanted to help.


“But that did not make it any easier for me,” she wrote. “They wanted to say goodbye to American heroes. I just wanted to say goodbye to my daddy.”

Kathie’s mother, June Scobee Rodgers, read part of the letter Saturday at a service commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Challenger accident.

About 200 people gathered by a memorial mirror at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to also celebrate the lives and legacies of other Americans who died trying to advance the exploration of space. The crowd included spouses, children and siblings of the Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1 crews.

Scobee Rodgers eulogized the fallen crews as men and women who understood the risks and accepted them for a greater good.

“Without risks, there is no discovery, there is no new knowledge, there is no bold adventure -- all of which help the human soul to soar,” she said. “And the greatest risk is to take no risk.”

In addition to family members, NASA officials, former astronauts and members of Congress, ordinary citizens came to pay their respects.


Lisa Maldony of Palm Bay, Fla., brought her 5-year-old son, Harrison, who was dressed in a version of the blue flight suit that astronauts wear. He attends kindergarten at Christa McAuliffe Elementary, which was named after the schoolteacher who died aboard Challenger.

In addition to Scobee and McAuliffe, astronauts Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair and Greg Jarvis died Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger blew apart in an explosion shortly after liftoff.