I remember when Challenger exploded - I was in the darkroom in high school and heard them announce it over the loudspeaker. I always said that our parents remembered where they were when Kennedy was shot, but our generation would remember where we were when Challenger exploded. I suppose the next generation will be the WTC/Pentagon attacks, but this one's pretty big, too.
The only thing positive I can think of is at least they had finished their mission, since that was the first time 4 out of 7 of them had been in space. It must have been the culimination of their lives to do what they did. They went out on top - that's got to count for something.