Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where were you when Challenger blew up?

Jan. 28, 1986 is one of those dates you remember exactly where you were if you're old enough.

It was the day the Challenger blew up.

Friday is the 25th anniversary.

I was sports editor of the Boca Raton News and we were huddled under the TV suspended in one corner of our conference room awaiting the launch.

Even after five years of shuttle flights --- the first was in April 1981 --- they were still an awesome spectacle.

As Challenger lifted off, I ran outside to the parking lot on the north side of the newsroom building.

I figured I might see the vapor trail as it hurtled over Florida's east coast.

Friends who lived on AIA would have beach parties whenever there was a night launch and watching those was a treat, even from a distance.

As I stood in our parking lot, looking toward the northeast, something caught my attention due north.

It was two columns of smoke in a Y-pattern.

That's odd, I thought.

Just then, Jerry Lower, our chief photographer ran by me toward the pressroom. We were still a P.M. paper at the time and the presses were running.

"Where you going?" I yelled.

"I'm going to stop the presses," Lower shouted. "The shuttle just blew up!"

What I'd seen were the two giant solid rocket boosters spiraling out of control after Challenger exploded.

I'll never forget it.

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