Challenger’s final mission remembered with tribute to Beaufort native

BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) – Thirty years ago Thursday the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killng all seven astronauts aboard, including Challenger Pilot Michael J. Smith.

To mark the day, Beaufort elementary’s busy cafeteria transformed into a somber room to observe a moment of silence to remember the Beaufort native.

“It’s an honor to be home to such a wonderful man as Michael J. Smith,” said Frieda Golden, a teacher at Beaufort Elementary.

During the school’s news program Thursday morning, students learned about the history behind what happened that tragic day and the impact it had on Beaufort.

“This morning I talked with my kids a little bit about it and I said it’s been thirty years ago and you were not here and some of their parents were not even here,” said Golden. “But I said this will be something that lives in history for a long time, people will talk about it a long time.”

And of those students is Michael Smith’s great-niece Emma Ganey.

While she never got the chance to meet Smith, she and her friend Demi Rosen reflect on who he was.

“Michael J. Smith was a very brave man to go up in space,” said Rosen.

And while many folks across the country remembered the Challenger seven Thursday, students at Beaufort Elementary can reflect on the impact they had every time they walk in their school doors.

“They all know facts about it, you can ask just about any child in this school and they can tell you certain things about it because we have put emphasis on that for them,” said Golden.

While the mini-museum will never capture all the accomplishments Smith achieved in his life, Beaufort Elementary staff say the memorabilia gives some insight into the life he lived and those he grew up with in Beaufort.

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