The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in front of our eyes 20 years ago this week, stunning the nation and abruptly halting our ventures into space, but that explosion would have a much bigger impact on a little boy in Houston, Texas.
Reggie McNair would now grow up without his father. Reggie McNair is a senior at Florida A&M University now majoring in business and Spanish and looking forward to graduation, but this week he is also looking back.
Reggie says, "I was three and a half years old, almost four. The accident happened on the 28th of January and I was about to turn four."
Twenty years ago this week Reggie and his younger sister Joy lost their father. Astronaut Ronald McNair was killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.
Reggie adds, "I do remember the actual accident happening, watching it with my own eyes. For any child that's something you really don't want to have in your memory, but that's just a part of life, that's what happened."
Mission Specialist Ronald McNair had flown on the Challenger before. This was his second mission into space.
Reggie admits sometimes it's difficult to watch the fateful footage, but he tries to focus on the positive, not the negative.
Reggie says, "I am very proud to be the son of Ronald McNair and the accomplishments and goals that he did."
And there are many. Ronald McNair had a Ph.D. from MIT, was a karate instructor and a performing jazz saxophonist.
Both Reggie and his mother regularly talk to school children and encourage them to follow their dreams into space or wherever they may lead.
Reggie says, "Always be determined and always have the will to succeed and never give up; never give up on something you want to pursue."
Reggie McNair says the 20th anniversary is more comforting than painful, a chance to talk about his father and celebrate his life. He doesn't remember much about his dad, but he says he has inherited Ronald McNair's optimism and ambition and definitely feels his presence in his life.
Reggie says, "At times, especially when I am down or feel like there's something I'm not going to be able to accomplish, I feel his presence there telling me to keep on going and it's a great feeling to have, it's a wonderful feeling to have."
Reggie is headed to his father's hometown this weekend for an anniversary parade there, and next month his family will establish the "DREME Foundation" in his father's name.
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