Lake City remembers Challenger astronaut Ron McNair

A Lake City native was one of six astronauts killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in the Florida sky just a minute after takeoff.

Remembrances are scheduled throughout the day in the Florence County town for their native son, Ron McNair.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, one many of us watched unfold, right before our eyes. Ron McNair's legacy lives on through books, schools and the Lake City community.

Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary of the disaster, we spoke with McNair's widow, Cheryl. "We weren't prepared for what we had seen - all the shuttles go up and come back. Ron was like, I'll see you later." But Cheryl never saw her husband again. On January 28, 1986, astronaut Ron McNair set out for his first major mission into his space aboard the shuttle Challenger. Seventy-three seconds after take off, it burst into flames, claiming his life and the lives of five of his fellow astronauts.

There is a school in Lake City named Ronald E. McNair Middle School. Students there will be honoring his memory and the memory of Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher who was also on board the shuttle.

NASA officials will gather at Florida's Kennedy Space Center Friday morning to mark the somber anniversary. Special guests include the widow of Challenger's commander, June Scobee Rodgers. She'll be the featured speaker at the outdoor ceremony.

The ceremony will take place at the Space Mirror Memorial, a granite monument bearing the names of all 24 astronauts who have died in the line of duty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Share your memories of that day with us and your fellow readers. Post a comment below telling us where you were when you learned the Challenger had exploded.

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