On this day 30 years ago, the space shuttle Challenger exploded moments after it launched. It was supposed to be a celebratory day — Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord, N.H, was going to space. Instead, Jan. 28, 1986 will always be considered with sadness.
Popular Mechanics spoke with more than 20 people closely involved with the launch and the aftermath (including Dan Rather) to honor this distinct moment in America’s history. The feature will give you chills. Here’s how Megan Raymond, a Concord High School student at the time, described the first few minutes after the explosion:
I remember seeing the explosion, the two streams of white smoke, and realizing there was no shuttle in the middle. I remember thinking specifically: Wait, that doesn’t look right. I remember hearing cameras clicking. I remember one of our beloved teachers standing up on the cafeteria table and shouting, ‘Everybody shut up. Shut the hell up. Something’s wrong.’ We respected him so much that when he did that, we got really scared, because he was scared.