Twenty-six years ago today, I was walking through the halls of Fort Henry Mall and had just finished a client meeting working at the Kingsport Times-News. As I walked through the electronics department in Sears, several people were gathered around a television watching the horrific replay of the explosion that rocked the country that day.

On January 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff and seven of our nation’s brightest “slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

Stunned, we all watched with disbelief – the orange and white plumes that filled the bright blue sky that day. Silent and numb from the tragedy, we all were fixated on our screens that day, watching the replay, listening to experts explain the event.

These brave men and women knew the risk and I imagine they never questioned their mission. It’s with great respect that we continue to honor this team.

There are families and friends who were forever changed by this event and to a greater sense, we all share their mourning this day and for the remainder of our lives. This event, like many others are a lasting memorial to the supreme costs that our heros commit to our future and freedom.

To the astronauts and their families – Thank you and may God continue to bless your family as we remember your courageous sacrifice to our shared humanity.