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Poems and Prayers From Space Coast Kids

January 30, 1986

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Students along Florida’s Space Coast, where each shuttle launch is felt and heard as well as seen, mourned the tragedy of Challenger on Wednesday in prayers, poems and assemblies.

Chevon Baccus, spokeswoman for the Brevard County school system, announced that an elementary school scheduled for completion this fall will be named after Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher who was among the seven crew members killed in the explosion.

Mrs. McAuliffe also was named the county’s honorary teacher of the year.

″We think it is appropriate to keep her memory alive by naming a shcool after her,″ Ms. Baccus said. ″In this area, we are very space oriented. Anything that affects the space center affects the schools.″

Many of the students’ parents work at NASA’s space center at Cape Canaveral or in related businesses.

Some of the children had feared for the safety of parents who were working at the center Tuesday when the shuttle blew apart 74 seconds after liftoff.

″I know some were scared that something happened to the people working at the Cape,″ said Kelly Charron, 13. ″It was real quiet that day.″

Ms. Baccus said the county school board passed an emergency resolution Tuesday emphasizing continued support for the space program.

″We thought it would be very important to let people in the sapce center know that the community ... viewed this as a tragic accident but in no way did it diminish their confidence in the space program,″ she said.

At James Madison Middle School in Titusville, an oak tree was planted for each of the crew members.

Students planted the trees at a ceremony while others joined them in singing patriotic songs and listening to poems about space.

″We’ve lived with the glory of the shuttle’s many successes and now we must live with its tragedies too,″ John Bonggren, the school’s guidance counselor, told the 650 students.

″The loss was quite devastating, but it would be worse if their spirit was forgotten,″ he said.

Principal Nathan Brown asked the students to remember that ″our brothers and sisters who died on this mission were a success because their dreams and aspirations live on with us.″

Students at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, whose playground is across the bay from the shuttle launch pad, led a special mass in memory of the astronauts Wednesday. Some of the school’s classes had watched the shuttle launch and all said rosaries in the minutes following the blast.

″There was interest around the country and around the world because a teacher was on board,″ said Father Louis Bamundo at St. Theresa’s. ″A teacher has a very strong influence on a person’s life. That makes it more traumatizing for the students.″

Few of the students seemed discouraged about the space program. ″We have got to move on. We can’t stop just because one shuttle exploded,″ said Leslie Schuldd, a fifth-grader at St. Theresa’s.

Many of the Space Coast adults felt the need to express their grief about the accident. Churches around the area scheduled numerous memorial services for Thursday and Friday.

The Rev. Rex Pedlow of Riverside Presbyterian Church in Cocoa Beach, said he agreed with Mayor Robert Lawton that the church should join with others to hold one big community service Friday night.

″He felt we needed something because he had received such an outpouring of grief and shock,″ Pedlow said. ″He thought we ought to express this in this particular way to set things in perspective when the shock wears off.″

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