I was in my senior year of high school when this happened. I recall just getting out of class and walking into the library and noticing a TV on a cart out in front of the check out desk so some could watch the launch. A we walked towards the desk to see what was going on, a girl who was already there called out to someone near me, "hey, the space shuttle exploded!" For some reason, as she told her friend she was laughing as though it was comical.
Mr. Burger, our economics/government teacher yelled at the girl, "you think this is funny!" She quickly changed expression and looked down and hopefully realized the gravity of what happened. Mr. Burger was in the Teachers in Space program though I have no idea how far he got. He was, I believe, and ex air force person so I assume he was in the running.
Growing up, I recall the birth and development of the shuttle. Up to that point space flight was magical and the fact that this one had a teacher on board was very exciting. It seemed to me like we would soon be living Star Trek. This brought home how truly dangerous space travel could be.