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Christa McAuliffe's Messenger

Challenger Learning Center at Framingham State University
Photo/Art by Carl Tremblay
Students at the Challenger Learning Center at Framingham State University

I go with Grace to see the Challenger Learning Center at Framingham State University. The director, Mary Liscombe, was Christa’s college classmate, and the women hug. “I feel Christa on my shoulder every day,” Mary says. She guides me through the center, shows me how students work together in a simulation, landing on Mars and returning to Earth. “There are no failures on these missions,” she says. Later I e-mail her; I ask her what I first asked Christa’s mother.

She wrote back: I, too, wonder how Grace does it. … When Grace is in front of children, she asks them whom they think Christa was flying for. The answer is–for them! Grace touches teachers’ hearts and reminds them to continue to touch the future through the children they teach. Christa lives through her. …

[A colleague] invited Grace and me to her sister-in-law’s funeral. The woman had died when the plane she was traveling in hit the World Trade Center. … Grace and that family shared the bond of having lost loved ones in a tragic and public way. The family surrounded her and embraced her. She was able to comfort them in ways no one else could. They drew strength from her and felt her love and gave love in return. I was so taken by the scene, I almost forgot to breathe. …

I’ve spent the day with another classmate of Christa’s. I was telling her that you’d asked how Grace “does it.” We were both thinking how anniversaries cause us to stop and reflect and remember. Grace does so much more than “just carrying on” in the face of tragedy. I can only hope that she draws love and strength from everyone she meets. Grace epitomizes the graces of forgiveness and love. Maybe it’s just as simple as that.

Before I say goodbye, Grace tells me a story that she thinks will help me understand. “The ones I remember most are the ones where the kids are really deprived,” she says. “There was a school in New Jersey. It’s a tough, tough school. They were a little scared [about] how I would be received. And yet …” Here she stops, and her eyes shine: “… they were the most wonderful audience. The auditorium was packed. The kids didn’t let out a peep. The teachers had taken my book, and each grade had taken a part and done projects. I remember this part so vividly. I was talking about questions children had asked me, and in that big auditorium it was so quiet I heard a little voice: ‘She’s talking about my question!’

“When I drove away, I said, ‘Thank you, Christa, thank you.'”

To learn more about how Christa McAuliffe’s mission continues, visit the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, NH (, and the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center in Framingham, MA (

Yankee Classic: Christa’s Shadow

First Published: January/February 2011

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Mel Allen


Mel Allen


Mel is the fifth editor of Yankee Magazine since its beginning in 1935. His career at Yankee spans more than three decades, during which he has edited and written for every section of the magazine, including home, food, and travel. In his pursuit of stories, he has raced a sled dog team, crawled into the dens of black bears, fished with the legendary Ted Williams, picked potatoes in Aroostook County, and stood beneath a battleship before it was launched. Mel teaches magazine writing at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and is author of A Coach’s Letter to His Son. His column, “Here in New England,” is a 2012 National City and Regional Magazine Awards Finalist for the category Column.
Updated Monday, January 24th, 2011

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One Response to Christa McAuliffe’s Messenger

  1. Patricia Taylor Kienzle October 23, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    I am looking for a way to share the continuing legacy of Christa McAuliffe with her family. I was honored with the Arkansas Christa McAuliffe Fellowship in 1997. Work still continues in one of the poorest counties in our country as a result of that experience.

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