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McAuliffe still vivid to her N.H. hometown

CONCORD, N.H. - In the 25 years since the Challenger space shuttle exploded on liftoff, Felicia Brown has gone to college, become a psychologist, gotten married and had kids. Fresh in her mind, though, is the memory of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher at her high school and family friend who was to be the first teacher in space.

"I know how important her field trip into space was to her and how much she hoped to learn and share with students everywhere," said the Concord High School graduate, who at 43 is now older than McAuliffe was when she died at age 37. "I wouldn't want her sincerity to get lost in a textbook."

A whole generation, including McAuliffe's own students, has grown up since McAuliffe and six other astronauts perished on live TV on Jan. 28, 1986. Now the former schoolchildren who loved her are making sure that people who weren't even born then know about McAuliffe and her dream of going into space.

Students who hadn't known of her before now will when they attend a new school named in her honor.

Concord, a city of about 42,000, where the popular McAuliffe taught social studies, carries her legacy as a source of both fierce pride and painful memory. It's where her husband still resides, her children grew up and her remains are buried.

Some locals had mixed feelings when the name of space pioneer Alan Shepard, a New Hampshire native, was added to a planetarium originally named just for McAuliffe. Some people still tear up at the mention of her name.

Brown didn't have McAuliffe as a teacher, but was a family friend and baby-sat her children. Last spring, when her third-grade daughter had to work on a Concord history project, she encouraged her to devote it to McAuliffe.

Brown's mother, Carol Berry, was watching in person at Cape Canaveral when the Challenger blew up. She headed the children's division at the Concord Public Library and worked with McAuliffe on a space-related reading program and had kept a scrapbook of the events related to the shuttle flight.

"It's difficult to have it all brought back to the forefront in my mind again," said Berry, 71. "Every year, I think about it . . . It took away a lot of talent and what could've been a really wonderful . . . experience."

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