It's a national tragedy such as this that brings out the best and worst in a nation's leaders. President Ronald Reagan rose to the occasion. He was supposed to give the annual State of the Union address that evening. However, in light of the tragedy it seemed far more appropriate to pay tribute to the fallen seven astronauts.
It would be the first time America lost a crew in space. Unfortunately, it would not be the last. But they understood the risks they were taking and for that they are properly remembered as heroes.
President Reagan appropriately borrowed his closing line from the poem High Flight which is a mantra for pilots: "And slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."