January 28, 1986 was a "snow day" for schools in the Atlanta suburbs. A cold spell had swept down from the north, bringing with it a few inches of frozen stuff. Most of the eastern seaboard had been freshly blanketed. The accumulation stretched all the way to Florida. We would later learn that a good bit of ice had collected on the launch pad.
I was in fifth grade, but due to school being canceled, was home watching television. "The Price Is Right" was just about to start the "Showcase Showdown" portion of the show. During the commercial break, the network broke in to broadcast the shuttle launch.
They never went back to The Price Is Right.
Upon seeing the explosion, I immediately thought the shuttle had blown up. Then the people on tv started wondering what had happened, and I started to doubt myself. I started thinking maybe what I saw was supposed to happen, or maybe I simply didn't understand what I was seeing. I suspect many others, children and adults alike, had similar thoughts.
After a few minutes, though, it seemed to dawn on everyone what had happened. We all learned, once again, that space flight is dangerous, and that the astronauts are putting their lives on the line every time they strap into their seats. Let us never forget the brave men and women of Challenger, and let us never take space flight for granted.