“I miss my daughter very much and I’m comforted to know that she lives on in this wonderful film.” Grace Corrigan
Loving wife. Dedicated mother. Devoted teacher. Role model.
Christa McAuliffe was all of these things. She came to symbolize limitless human potential as the first teacher in space. Friday marks the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the shuttle mission that claimed the lives of Christa and 6 of her fellow astronauts when it exploded 73 seconds after take off in 1986. It shocked the world.
I, like so many, remember exactly where I was on that fateful day, watching this terrible event with my roommates in my college dorm at Miami University. Christa represented so much to so many. The woman who said “I touch the future. I teach” has never been forgotten….
I was fortunate to speak with Christa’s mother briefly this week. “She left a wonderful legacy,” said 85-year-old Grace Corrigan. “This is a milestone. I would expect that.” Grace says she wasn’t sure how she would spend this day but is grateful that her daughter touched so many lives.
A source of comfort for Christa’s family is a 2006 award-winning documentary on her life, CHRISTA MCAULIFFE: REACH FOR THE STARS. It was a pivotal film that helped define who her daughter really was. Grace says, “I miss my daughter very much, and I’m comforted to know that she lives on in this wonderful film…and now, more people will get the chance to see it.”
For the Los Angeles-based independent filmmakers, Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges, a mutual respect for who Christa was as a person inspired a five-year journey to make their first feature documentary film. Renee says, “…it’s exciting to hear people are still moved by it.”
The film, narrated by Susan Sarandon with original songs provided by Carly Simon, contains rare home movies, interviews and photographs, and captures aspects of Christa’s life few knew.
One example in the movie is how she wouldn’t tolerate bullying of any kind in her classroom because of student’s sexual orientation. Bullying in schools is a timely topic now, yet Grace says, “She was just doing what all teachers do.”
REACH FOR THE STARS continues to inspire. Philanthropist Pepi Kelman, Co-founder of DOCCLUB LA, was so touched by the film, she bought 10,000 DVD copies and donated them to students and educators throughout the country. Another thousand copies have been donated to the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center in Christa’s hometown of Framingham, MA and will be made available to the public.
While not always easy, Renee says, “That truly is our mission, to keep getting it out there…and have Christa’s mother experience more people getting to know her daughter.”
As we mark the wonderful life that was, Christa McAuliffe will live on…in film, in schools named in her honor, and certainly in our hearts. Renee adds, “It sounds silly, but we felt like we were being guided along by Christa. I think she would have been proud of the film…I am so proud of it. If I do nothing else in my life, I’ll be ok.”
To learn more about the film and how you can find it, go to www.Teacher1986.com.
All photos courtesy: Christa McAuliffe: REACH FOR THE STARS
UPDATE 5/26/15: Christa McAuliffe Charter School Student Wins Flag Pole Contest
UPDATE 1/28/14: 28 Years Ago: Remembering the Challenger Disaster
UPDATE 1/28/13: Christa McAuliffe Day is celebrated every year on this day to remember the time in 1986 that seven lives including Christa’s were lost when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.