At 11:39 Saturday afternoon, Tallahassee church bells tolled for the lives lost in the name of exploration on board the Challenger space shuttle 20 years ago, while hundreds gathered at the Challenger Learning Center to pay their respects.
“So today, let us celebrate the lives and the works of the men and women who we all proudly call our astronauts. Let us recognize the sacrifices that they've made in an effort to advance science and knowledge," proclaimed Tallahassee Mayor John Marks.
As the bells continued to ring out, astronaut Norm Thaggard recalled being in a meeting at the Johnson Space Center that fateful day.
"Everybody present was either a NASA employee or a NASA contractor and we all understood, but we were stunned. No one said anything," explained Thaggard.
Many people at the memorial also say they remember the moment the shuttle exploded, and parents say it's important for their children to appreciate the mission.
"She understands that there are some people that died and she's starting to get the significance of the event," said the mother of two young girls, Deborah Seymore.
"And we came here to remember them, and we come to the Challenger Center," said the father, Steve Seymore.
Many at the memorial say the spirit of the of Challenger mission is reflected in the many learning centers that bear its name.
The Challenger Learning Center in Tallahassee is one of 52 centers built in memory of the Challenger space shuttle.