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Ninteen Years Ago Today

Speaking of time passing...


Nineteen years ago today, I was sitting in my parent's house (where I still lived) playing a full simulated season of Major League baseball on my Commodore 64 with some friends.

This is how the news appeared that day:

The American space shuttle, Challenger, has exploded killing all seven astronauts on board. The five men and two women - including the first civilian in space - were just over a minute into their flight from Cape Canaveral in Florida when the Challenger blew up.

The astronauts' families, at the airbase, and millions of Americans witnessed the world's worst space disaster live on TV.

The danger from falling debris prevented rescue boats reaching the scene for more than an hour.

In 25 years of space exploration seven people have died - today that total has been doubled.

President Ronald Reagan has described the tragedy as "a national loss".

The Challenger's flight, the 25th by a shuttle, had already been delayed because of bad weather. High winds, then icicles caused the launch to be postponed from 22 January.

But Nasa officials insist safety remains their top priority and there was no pressure to launch the shuttle today.

The shuttle crew was led by Commander Dick Scobee, 46. School teacher Christa McAuliffe, 37, married with two children, was to be the first civilian in space - picked from among 10,000 entries for a competition.

Speaking before the launch, she said: "One of the things I hope to bring back into the classroom is to make that connection with the students that they too are part of history, the space programme belongs to them and to try to bring them up with the space age."

President Reagan has put off his state of the union address. He was meeting senior aides in the Oval Office when he learned of the disaster.

We will never forget them

US President Ronald Reagan

He has called for an immediate inquiry into the disaster but he said the space programme would go on - in honour to the dead astronauts. Vice-President George Bush has been sent to Cape Canaveral to visit the victims' families.

This evening, the president went on national television to pay tribute to the courage and bravery of the seven astronauts.

He said: "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."

We weren't paying attention to the television. My mother, ever the space buff, was watching the launch. I heard her gasp. I looked up at the tv. I froze.

Nobody moved for a long time. Nobody spoke. It was one of the most horrifying, saddest moments of my life. To witness that, to see the flames and sparks and the smoke, and to know that you not only just watched people die, but you were witnessing a depressing piece of history - the moment was overwhelming. I have never forgotten it. I don't even need to watch the video because it is so firmly etched in my mind.

One of those where were you moments that seem to stand still in your mind forever.

Where were you?

More at Command Post


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Heading to work (McDonald's) on a cold January day. I heard it on the radio, then went inside to see it being played over and over again on the TV in the break room. :(

Sitting in middle school, in the library for study hall. A couple of kids were selected every period to go to the AV room to watch the little television or play on the Commodore 64 and Apples back there, but I wasn't one of them.

The word started filtering out from the AV room and had spread throughout the school before the official announcement two hours later.

I was in the barracks at the submarine base in Groton. Since I had duty the night before, I had the day off. It was playing over and over on the big TV in the common area when I wandered through.

Mrs. Kaminsky's fourth grade class. None of us could take our eyes off the television. The rest of the day, and for a while thereafter, we went about our routines in a state of disbelief, all these long, solemn faces...
Some time later, maybe a week or so, 7 palm trees were planted in front of the school in honor of the astronauts.

They still stand.

I was at home... it snowed (probably a half inch that was gone by noon) in Atlanta, so the schools were closed. I was dressed in PJs all day, and I remember walking down the stairs and seeing the video clip being run over and over on TV. It was surreal.

About 6 years later, I was walking in a memorial garden that my high school had just made. Ron McNair, one of the astronauts on the Challenger, had been on our board of trustees and there was a plaque on the wall. It said he died in 1988. I thought it odd that he died 2 years after the shuttle explosion... so I told someone and they fixed the plaque. I was surprised no one had caught that -- it was the big disaster of my childhood and I felt sure everyone at least knew the =year= it occurred. Kinda like if my mother's high school had made a plaque to JFK and said he died in 1965. It would make you scratch your head.

Mr. Cyre's 7th grade science class, dissecting a sheep's eye. By the way, I think that is one of the most touching things a president has ever said.

Mrs. Downey's fifth grade class. Since it was the first mission with a teacher included (Christie McAuliffe), it was of educational interest, and pretty much every classroom in the school had the launch on. We all watched with that somewhat excited, yet detached anticipation you get when someone distantly connected to you is doing something amazing. Then the shuttle broke up and a lead weight hit my stomach. It hit me really hard; I hadn't yet ruled out the possibility of joining NASA when I grew up.

The whole school watched in stunned silence for at least an hour. Not much got taught that morning, but I think it's safe to say we all learned a lot.

In my morning Sociology class at college. I remember a young woman, I think it was the professor's assistant, coming into the room - just past the door way actually - and she had this funny look on her face, it was obvious she was crying but she didn't look sad as much as shocked. She turned to the room and said, "There's been an accident. The Space Shuttle is gone. Everyone died." and then she just walked out of the room.

The professor had the good sense to dismiss class and I found myself in the Student Union watching the shuttle blow up over and over again. It had snowed the night before and from the size of the crowd a lot of people hadn't come in for their early classes, so probably everyone was there - about 300 of us packed into the Union. And I remember some ass, there has to be one right? This ass cracks wise and tries to make a joke out of the whole thing. His buddy just turns to him and boom - one shot, in the face, mr. funny goes down. No one even moved to help the guy either, I was just thinking, "run bastard, before we kill you". I guess he got the message because he apologized and then got his shit and left. No one even said "boo" to his buddy. We just went back to watching them die again and again on TV.

It still gets to me, even now.

I was a junior in college in Arkansas. Two kids from Christa McAuliffe's hometown in NH also attended there. They were sort of "celebrities" because they KNEW the first teacher to go to space. The girl, Debbie, had even babysat Mrs. McAuliffe's children.

The student newpaper had set up a watching party in the student center, where they were going to interview Debbie and Dave while they watched the shuttle launch. I got out of class and while I was walking through the student center, I heard a loud gasp. I went around to the TV room to see what was going on, and someone said, "The shuttle blew up!"

I'll never forget the looks on Debbie and Dave's faces as long as I live. It was horrible, just horrible.

I was roughly half my present age when I was on a vacation with my parents (yes, that's right: how pathetic!). We were visiting their friends who lived outside of Orlando. Rudy said 'a minute or so after the shuttle lifts off, you can see it from my backyard.' So we waited for the Challenger to launch.

And waited.


Delayed again. One after another.

It was a comparatively bitter day for the region (compared to a NY'er like me, it was mild). After a time it was decided we were to forgo the lift-off and head off somewhere (a restaurant, perhaps?). Disappointed (in more ways than one) we left Rudy's backyard.

In the car we heard the news bulletin about the disaster. 73 seconds after liftoff. We would have had a perfect view of the explosion.

Its one of those moments I am both glad I didn't see, but still wish I had.

I was watching the launch live. I was still at the stage where I set my alarm to watch the launch which was carried live on local TV. I remember seeing the explosion, and knowing what had happened while the commentator was still talking as if the launch was successful. It was at least a full minute before he caught on that something was wrong and I spent that minute screaming at the television in a rage, tears running down my face.

Strangly enough I was less than a mile away from Skillzy at the time. I was buying lunch at the Naval Exchange in Groton during a break from Sub school.

I was in 9th grade AP Biology class listening to a lecture on something when the teacher from the next room came in and told what had happened. We wheeled a TV into the room and spent the rest of class watching it.

Bolie IV

Driving down the Parkway East on the way to my office in Downtown Pittsburgh. It was a cold day and my windshield cracked with a rather loud bang. While I was swearing about that, the radio report of the loss of the shuttle came on. I continued on to my office, where we watched the shuttle explode over and over again and wondered how a crew compartment made to endure the vacuum of space and the stresses of liftoff and reentry could not withstand the explosion. Of course, we later learned that it did, at least until it hit the water.

In a conference room at BofA world HQ in San Francisco watching the launch live. The whole office simply stopped functioning for about an hour. To this day I can't watch the tape.

I was sitting in the lunchroom of my elementary school with most of the rest of my school. We were watching because a teacher was going to space. My teacher was in the Air National Guard and had been in the competition that Christa McAuliffe won. I remember seeing her face right after the explosion. I had never seen a teacher cry until that day, I have also never seen someone look so sad at the loss of someone that they had never met.

Same thing as the Oklahoma City bombing; heard about it on the way into work and didn't really comprehend it until I'd seen the clips on TV.

I was in the debate and forensics room at Topeka High School 9yikes, that sounds geeky). Someone came into the room to announce what they had heard, and no one believed it until an announcement was made over the PA system. It hit me kind of hard because Judith Resnick, one of the seven crew members, was from my hometown in Ohio and I had just read an article from the old hometown paper about her.

It's kind of eerie - Reagan started his speech that night by noting that nineteen years previously, we lost three astronauts on the ground. Somehow I hope that there's nothing significant planned for today.

A lot of us were in school when it happened, so recall that Reagan specifically acknowledged that in his speech:
And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them...

On my way to Miss Jones' AP Art History class at Richardson High School in Richardson, Tx.

I was in OKC when that happened. We were staying in a motel at 240 and 35 and had flown out of and back to Tinker the night before. The blast was so big it woke me up and I went outside to see a big black cloud rising over downtown.

I was living in Columbus, Ohio at the time. My girlfriend and I were getting ready to drive downtown for something. I was duping videotapes, so I left the TV and the machines on, and locked the door. Ran down the steps to the parking lot, where my firlfriend was already in the car. I had forgotten something, so I was bitching as I ran back up the stairs to the apartment. When I unlocked the door and walked inside, the TV was broadcasting the first video of the explosion. I just stood there for what seemed like forever, with my mouth hanging open. Rose eventually came back up to the apartment to see what the hell was keeping me so long. We were both completely stunned...

I was at work in Cleveland, OH and our ditzy sales rep came bouncing in and just blurted, "Did you hear about the rocket blowing up?" We immediately turned on the radio and heard the report. When Reagan gave the speech and said that line..."...slipping the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God..." I sobbed!

I would have been in Mrs. Whittaker's 3rd grade classroom, but I was sick (I believe 1/28/86 was the same day I was diagnosed with asthma).

One of the highlights of any sick day for me was getting to watch The Price Is Right. Just as the Showcase Showdown was set to start, CBS News broke in...

It was then I remembered there was a shuttle launch that day and I knew something had to be wrong.

And sure enough, Dan Rather said "The Space Shuttle Challenger...has exploded."

Even seeing the video for the first time, I couldn't believe it. I could only imagine what my classmates were thinking.

So yeah, 1/28/86 sucked royal ass.

I didn't want to be one of those asses who props up his own sucky blog on a worthy someone's comments section, so I put my reply in the trackback, for folks to read if they want.

Basically, I was in grade school, but I get the history confused with the time a plane crashed in my neighborhood (it was right around the same time).

East Meadow High School, taking my sophomore year Science Mid-Term. They stopped the test and wheeled in a TV and we all watched the news. Feels like yesterday...

I was a sophmore at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I had a civillian job at Wright Patterson AFB. I was between classes and visiting with my then boyfriend who was working in the student union. There was a TV lounge next door and I noticed a crowd standing in the hallway. I went to see what was going on and was shocked. I rushed back, told my boyfriend, then ran to catch some other friends across campus just getting out of class. We were all Music Education majors and our Ed classes had been full of Christa. No one believed me when I told them, even when I was sobbing and out of breath from running across campus. Not until the next class, which got cancelled. I didn't get anything done at work on base. No one wanted to be there.

8th grade, lined up in the hallway after coming from recess. They shut us all up as we crowded in a single file line against the wall (gotta love Catholic school) and made an overhead announcement. It was scary for me because the last shuttle had the my neighbor's sister on it (Kathy Sullivan), and at first I thought she was on this one too (what did I know back then, I thought they were the same crew each time)

TV's were rolled into our class rooms and we watched them all day. It was the first time most of use realized how serious death is, and that explosion was etched in my mind as they repeatedly showed it from every angle possible and then speculated that the crew may have been still alive for a time afterward. It was my first "where were you" day that was burned into my memory.

High school in New Jersey, freshman English class. A guy in our class who was, frankly, a big dork (OK, a bigger dork even than me) came back from the nurse's office and said the space shuttle blew up. Given the source, nobody believed him. It was later in the day before it sank in.

Starting my car,backing up, in a parking lot after emerging from a bank on a cold day with plenty of snow from a recent storm still on the ground. The all-news station came on as my car started, and I heard the news. I continued backing up, oblivious, until I hit another car, also backing up in the parking lot. We got out of our cars. No damage. He was listening to the same station.

Coming out 9th grade German class at the high school next to the Johnson Space Center where some of the children of the astronauts (including Captain Smith and Ellison Onizuka) would have been... had they not been at Cape Canaveral, witnessing the tragedy first-hand. Needless to say, it pretty much sucked the air out of our community for years to come.

Arlington Cemetery memorial here. Memorial park in Houston here.

Mrs. Meare's 10th grade Intro to Composition class, 4th period, right after lunch, Morrilton Intermediate High School, Morrilton, AR. She hadn't come in yet and we were chatting. Then we noticed her standing in the doorway with a look of complete dismay and all she said was "It blew up." Didn't see it until after school when I got home.

I was working at the armory (TXARNG) in Breckenridge, TX. Every full timer in battalion was ordered to work there for that week. My 1SG (first sergeant) insisted that we form a circle in the drill hall and pray. So the Major told the 1SG to say a prayer outloud. My 1SG smiled and said "I don't talk to God." We all laughed.

I was just about to leave my home in Atlanta for a flight to Miami. My wife called to tell me and I watched the replays in horror. At the airport the normally nosiy crowds were hushed, the bars and restaurants jammed with people trying to get a look at the TV monitors. The fight south was delayed by order of the FAA, and we flew much further west over Florida than normally, but as we passed Cape Canaveral two hours after the explosion we could still see the "death cloud" hanging white and ghastly in the cold still air. The pilot asked for a moment of silence. He got a lot more than just a moment.

It something that I will never forget.

I was also in school, but we didn't interrupt anything to watch the launch. A TV was on showing it in the A/V room, and the news spread throughout the school within about 15 minutes after it happened.

What's really really sad, is that there was evidence recovered that the initial explosion didn't kill the astronauts, and at least some of them were alive while they fell back to earth, because 3 of 4 emergency oxygen systems had been turned on. I also read somewhere on the internet that a rescue capsule that should have been built into the cabin was not included, due to budgetary constraints. If they had had this, and if the parachutes had survivied, things might have been different.

I was a newly minted Air Force 2nd Lt, only 1 month here in Colorado Springs and awaiting training to learn how to fly satellites. I was at a meeting at Raytheon discussing something or other when someone came in and said the Shuttle stack had exploded. The rest of that morning's meeting was something of a blur.

At lunch, I saw a woman in a small shop who had the news on TV. It was my first time to see the replays and it appeared that perhaps one of the main engines had exploded (small TV screen didn't show much detail). It was plainly obvious that no one could've survived (although it turns out they did survive the explosion only to die on impact with the water 204 seconds after liftoff as discussed here).

That afternoon, an officer who'd worked on the Shuttle program came in and discussed what he saw in the video. I was pretty numb the rest of the day - a feeling similar to 9-11.

Probably outside playing...I was five. lol

Yes, the crew did survive the initial explosion. This was confirmed by the settings of some oxygen valves that would've only been activated after the explosion and could only have happened manually.

However, the crew wasn't wearing pressure suits like they do today. The explosion happened at over 40,000 feet altitude and crew compartment's momentum carried it much higher. When you get much over 40,000 feet, an oxygen mask alone isn't enough - you need either a pressure suit or a pressurized cabin to supply pressure on your body. Odds are - and we can only hope this is true - the crew would've passed out within 30 seconds or so after the explosion and died on impact with the water.

I was home, talking to my wife on the phone, waiting for her to find something in her office for me, and started flipping through the channels, and found the lift-off, which I hadn't thought was going to be televised. Waited.

Just as always, I was jealous, 'cause I'd wanted to be going along since the Mercury program (and I still do, btw.) My wife came back to the phone, started to talk, and I interrupted her with the news.

"Oh God we're losing the Shuttle."

I was in 6th grade. My 5th grade teacher had competed for the honor that Christa McAuliffe had won. Our entire school was assembled and watching the live broadcast. There was stunned silence (even from the really little kids) as EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that big room turned at the exact same moment to look at my 5th grade teacher. She didn't even notice... she never took her eyes off of the TV.

I was 10, and waiting to get in the car with my friend across the street to go to school. We were delayed because of this, as my friends mom was watching it unfold.

Other where were you moments:

OJ verdict
Princess Di death
Declaration of Gulf War 1.

Can't think of any other.

It was my senior year at Canevin High School. School had been cancelled due to snow, and my brother and I were watching the launch live on TV. We saw Challenger explode. Over, and over, and over. We didn't say anything for almost half an hour, just sat there in shock, our arms over each other's shoulders. It's just as fresh in my mind today as it was then.

My brother and I really didn't get along growing up, but on that day we found common ground that we were never able to find before. Now we're so close that a prybar could't separate us. Maybe that happens eventually with all siblings, but I know for us it started with sitting in front of the TV on January 28, 1986. As horrible as the Challenger tragedy was, it also marked the beginning what is a very positive and important part of my life. I look back on that day with very mixed emotions.

I was 21 and living in southern California. I was on the couch watching the news while my husband took a shower before work. When the shuttle exploded, I yelled for him to come see. For a long time we just watched the TV: I stayed in my nightgown and he stood, dripping wet, with just a towel wrapped around his waist. I remember sitting there like a simpleton, thinking, "The teacher just died."

I will never forget seeing that beautiful blue sky on TV, and watching those pure white contrails that were, in their own way, beautiful ... and knowing the horror that they represented.

I was driving north on A1A with a friend, returning from dropping another friend off. We heard the countdown on the radio and wondered if we would be able to see the shuttle go up. I pulled over and we watched the shuttle streak into the sky, then saw the "weird" change in the vapor trail. I had never seen the shuttle launch before, but knew immediately it wasn't right, but tried to explain it away by saying that must be what it looks like when the tank drops.

Getting back in the car and turning on the radio confirmed our worst fears. We drove the rest of the trip to Jacksonville mostly in silence, broken only by the occassional "Man, that's fucked up."

I was working at an Air Force R&D facility (AEDC) for a s*** of a boss. My plan had been to catch the launch on a television down the hall,or on radio, but things came up and I was at my desk instead. Someone in the corridor made some comment, almost a crack, and I thought they were making a bad joke. Then, found out it was true. I had just gone over to the "dark side" from journalism, where I had covered NASA and the first few Shuttle missions. I knew people at NASA, knew astronauts, and had one of those one-removed contacts with the crew. I was stunned, and all my unlamented boss could do was try to give me a direct order not to go to Huntsville, not to go to NASA, and in fact don't leave town. He did not want me to leave my desk to go watch the news. In short, no contact with friends, family, or sources. Think someone finally told him it was illegal, and he relented a bit, but still he was such an a*****e about it all day. I ignored him as much as I could, and I did talk with friends and more. I don't think, however, that I saw the images until that night, after I left from work.

My father was career Army and we were in Frankfurt at the time. I came home from school around 4 PM I think -- it was dark outside already, if I recall -- and caught the coverage of it on NBC's 'Today' Show that AFN rebeamed to us.

I was the Stars & Stripes news carrier for my housing area. I cried the entire time the next morning when I had to deliver the paper. Easily one of the hardest things - perhaps the hardest - I've ever had to do.

I was standing in the silver futures trading pit at the NY Commodity Exchange. Everyone kind of hushed, then someone says, "What does NASA stand for?" And some absolute soulless voice replies "Need another seven astronauts." And nearly everyone cracked up laughing and trading got back under way.

I knew, right then, I was working with the most insane SOBs I was ever gonna meet. I was in my element.

Sitting in a third grade class doing miscellaneous third grade stuff. As word spread we all went into the auditorium to watch coverage the rest of the day. After Oklahoma City and 9-11, seeing it as one a horrifying tragedy on the scale we did seems like a memory from a more innocent time.

Just getting home after a graveyard shift. Turned on my 13" B/W TV to see the smoke plumes from the SRB's shooting wildly off into the sky. I remember the heated, and very wishful, talk from the announcers of an escape pod being one of the objects falling from the sky. Can still picture the particle-board shelf and milk-crates that the TV was sitting on. Just sat there and stared. Will never forget that.

I lived in Orlando at the time. They wheeled in the the TV during Algebra. during lunch, just about everyone was staring up at the cloudless sky, cloudless except for the one that we all saw on the tv earlier.

Damn, I was in 2nd grade watching that on TV. That has to be my first vivid memory as a kid. I remember we were all just sitting there not realizing what happened, when the teacher ran up and turned the TV off and started crying.

Wow. I can't believe that was 19 years ago...

I was in seventh grade. The announcement came over the loudspeaker and I thought, "Does this mean we get to watch TV this afternoon instead of sitting in class?" It did. Sweet.

Working through lunch (mainframe operator). The systems analyst known for his dry sense of humor - walked in obviously coming back from being out at lunch. He said "Did you hear the shuttle blew up?"

I waited nearly a full minute for the punch line. It never came.

I was working in an AT&T business call center, there were probably 80 of us on the floor, and we all took an average of 130 calls per day.

It was never quiet on that floor, never.

A customer that was speaking with one of the reps told him that the shuttle had just exploded. The rep, his name was Kevin, stood up and announced it to the room. Kevin was known for being a joker, and at first no one believed him..

Then the phones stopped ringing, nothing, not a single call came into that center for several hours.

We all sat on the floor around another reps desk and listened to it all on the radio, until someone finally pulled a TV out of a conference room.

In the 8 years I worked in that building, the only other time the phones were silent was the day after the Loma Prieta earthquake. We were in the San Francisco bay area, and we had no power.

I had come home to for lunch between classes at the junior college and going to work. I was sitting on the end of the couch eating a sandwich watching the launch. Mom was cleaning house and I had shut the door to the den to tune out the noise and turned around and watched it happen. Mom opened the door to the den when she was done to, I am sure, a face frozen in shock at what I had seen.

I was a sophomore in high school, in my computer programming class. The principal came on the PA and made the announcement about the explosion. Most of us weren't even aware that there was a launch scheduled, because they had become "old hat" by that point. They actually cancelled school for the rest of the day and sent us home, and I sat in front of the TV crying the remainder of that day.

Oh, and I have another event to add to Vince's "where were you" list: Columbine.

I was asleep. I worked night shift. A friend of mine called and woke me up and told me to turn on the television, that the Challenger had exploded.

I didn't get a whole lot more sleep that day.

8th grade study hall in the library... we talked the librarian into letting us watch the launch on tv

Walking down the dorm hallway to class, I noticed the student lounge was full, everyone watching the TV. In the middle of the day, that never means something good.

I remember sitting in Lord Munchies Pizza later that day, with the explosion on endless loop on the news.

Gosh, I feel insensitive and old. I was never fully invested in the space program so while I was sorry for the loss of life, it just didn't affect me that much.

Anyway, I was at work. Heard about it from someone who heard it on the radio, I said something like "wow... huh...", maybe tapped my pencil against my lips and thought about it for a few moments and then buried my head back in my job at the time (fortran programming).

Guess it was significant enough for me to remember where/what I was doing but not a huge event in my mind. People died everyday and manmade things fall down on a frequent basis. Sorry if I sound cold.

Walking to breakfast the next day and reading the headline in the student daily "Shuttle Explodes". Little did I know that my soon-to-be wife was the managing editor of the paper, had written the headline, and has regretted it from that moment on. It's amazing the things you remember....

Fifth grade...it was one of those days where they took the "smart kids" out of the regular classrooms, so when we returned to class in the afternoon, we had no idea what had happened.

Sister Marcela's Algebra 2 class. Someone read the news over the intercom, stunning and shocking all of us. We were well aware of the civilian teacher going along for the ride, making this shuttle trip so memorable.

The incident was not nearly as shocking as the revelations later that the contractor knew of the likely equipment failure, and that the government understood the explosion didn't kill the people on board in the crew cabin, but suspended any search and rescue efforts to allow time for them to drown in the Atlantic, thereby corroding instruments and equipment that would be the smoking gun to indict the atrocious actions and inactions of the government and its contractors.

Sad but true, look it up. Many officials and civilians are on the record corroborating this hideous cover up.

I was in high school. I was part of a group that worked with the Director of Student Activities (read: club herder). We were in the hall when he came flying down the hall saying "That can't be true. Some kid said the shuttle just crashed." We went into his office, and turned on WOR radio.

The first words I heard were "... major tragedy for the US space program." We all just collapsed into chairs.

An announcement was made on the PA system about 10 minutes later. My father was the middle school principal and had to make the announcement over there.

At the airport in St. Bart's waiting for our flight out . . . So I guess we were a day late . . . It was all over whatever paper we had at hand -- probably (gasp!) the NYT.

I was home, watching the launch on t.v. and then the ohmygod moment came...

I was home sick from school, tenth grade. Everyone was so excited about the launch because of Christa McAuliffe, and I was watching in my living room. Like everyone else, I watched in disbelief as the Challenger exploded, not sure exactly what was going on. It was the same feeling I had when I first turned on the television and saw the 2nd plane hit the WTC. My thoughts echo what someone else said about Reagan's comments, "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." The next morning I cut out that tribute from the newspaper and I still have it.

I heard about it on the radio just as I pulled up to the school where I worked as a Special Education instructional aide. I went in and told the staff about it and was met with disbelief. We had no TV in our portable classroom, and so I didn't see the actual rebroadcasts until later when I got home.

Another "where were you" moment: when John Lennon was killed.

i was in middle school, i think 7th, maybe 8th grade, and we watched it on TV because with McAuliffe, it was a big deal.

12th grade McGavock High, absolutely clueless til i got home from school at about 2:30 CST. turned on tube (we had just gotten cable !!!) & it was on every single network and news channel. distinctly remember my older brother walking into the room & asking what happened, i turned & told him "the shuttle blew up". we both sat & listened for at least 2 hours..

other "where were you" moments for me:

John Lennon- Columbine- OKC - Princess Di (remember that one specially well cause my now-husband returned my call to his personal ad that day, we talked for over 5hrs..)

I was watching the launch live on television at home. It was one of those few mornings that I had off from my college classes, so I decided to watch the launch, being something of a space buff myself. My first impression was that the SRBs had separated prematurely. Then I realized the shuttle itself was gone. It was a chilling moment that I will never forget.

Sixth grade lunchroom. WE heard the news and had to line up outside (which we did everyday anyway). But I could see the huge cloud with two lines coming out of it and did not really understand what I was looking at til we turned the tv a few minutes later.

That is the only day I can remember from that entire year. I can still feel the knot in my gut. In fact it just cam back when I started reading this post.

I was at home helping my wife with our 5-day old baby daughter. We saw it live; it was horrible.

I was at work, in the office watching live when it blew up. We all were horrified, standing gape jawed; except one of us.

Cathy, and earthy Jersey girl, turned and said, "So, they wanted to go to the fucking moon, eh? That's what ya' get."

I'll never forget it.

I was home sick that day so I was watching it live, too. My mom was next to me on the couch and said, "Oh look. Isn't that pretty?," having no idea exactly what she just saw and exactly what it meant... But one look at my face and she knew it was anything but, and I just remember starting to cry. From what I heard from my friends, it was even worse watching it in school though (since every classroom had it on live for the "teacher in space").

i was on a fith grade field trip to the Cook's Pest Control Museum of Natural History in Decatur, AL. one of my classmates heard the adults talking about it and started telling everybody as we walked through the museum. no one believed him. on the bus ride back one of the teachers announced the sad news.

I was stationed in the Philippines. Unbelievable that "she" was gone. Only had CNN to watch, and it was non-stop coverage. Now, I work at KSC, and have had to deal directly with the loss of Columbia. Both suck....

Save this thread Michele.
It's history.

I was a high school senior home sick from school laying on the livingroom couch watching the launch on a morning TV news show. I was feeling very proud that we were sending those shuttles up with the regularity of a city bus schedule and then it blew up and I lay there shocked...a feeling much like I had on the day of the OKC bombing and 9/11.

Mr. Shapiro's Calculas class, Senior Year, at Laguna Beach High School, CA. A student came in and told Mr. Shapiro that the Challenger had exploded. He didn't believe it at first, saying that it wasn't a good joke or something like that. Then reality hit and the rest of the day was just depressing.

Sitting in my 8th grade computer class, pounding away at the keybaord of the school's Apple IIc's.

My teacher had a TV brought in that day so we could watch the launch, and as the shuttle went up we all turned our attention from the task of coding in Apple Basic.

When the shuttle exploded a few seconds later we all sat in stunned silence until the Principle came over the school PA system and announced the tragedy to the rest of the student body.

I don't recall much of the rest of the day after that.

I was at work at a little afternoon newspaper that no longer exists in Palo Alto, CA. I was trying to get the composing room to hurry up and finish my page so that I wouldn't miss my deadline.

The compositor turned to me and said dryly, "I don't think you have to worry about it, kid. The shuttle just blew up."

So sad. I was so angry at Reagan because the whole Christa McAuliffe thing was just a big publicity stunt to say teachers were important w/o actually having to do anything to improve their lives. And she died for it.

What I will always remember, however, is that the half-page photo we ran of the spirals of smoke had on the back of it a house ad for our Valentines classifieds, and the dinner plate size red Cupid bled through. Ooops.

I was TDY at Ramstein AB, Germany for the European Broadcasting Squadron conference, staying in Billiting.. Because of the time zone, it was early evening, and the heavy duty conferring was over for the day. Our CO was going to take a bunch of us in a van to the Kino in Landstuhl, which showed first-run American movies. I had the TV on as I was getting changed--- the Morning Show, I think--- Katie Curic and company. I went around the corner into the bathroom to put on a bit of makup, and when I finished and went back into the room it had happened already--- nothing but white contrails in a blue, blue sky.
It took a while to sink in. We did go to the movies, but everyone was very, very quiet. Just seeing the way it blew up, there was just no hope at all.

I was also sitting in my parents' house, playing a game on the Commodore 64 ("Squish 'Em").

I was home early after taking a midterm, still wearing my white Polo shirt, acid-washed Lee jeans and white reeboks (and yes, I had a mullet).

The TV was on behind me when I heard the news. I sat and watched all day, just hoping there would be some kind of rescue, especially after one erroneous report that parachutes had been seen.

When school started again several days later, I remember one of my classmates in freshman honors english reading a journal entry about how annoying it was that they kept playing the footage of the shuttle exploding over and over again at the country club, where he was trying to enjoy his lunch. His fellow country club members in the class laughed in approval. I honestly felt like I was the only person in my corner of the world who was upset.

Sophomore in college at MIT on my way with the rest of the MIT Concert Band from Tampa to Titusville on our winter tour. It was a bitterly cold morning in Florida -- well below freezing. We were on our way up I-4 then got on the Bee Line.

All of us knew about the launch since one of our own, Ron McNair -- class of 70-something -- was on his way to space. We watched the launch and saw the explosion. One of our members, a tuba player, had a small radio and let us know exactly what had happened, despite our disbelief.

Later that day, we finally made it to Titusville to play our evening concert at their high school -- Astronaut High. No kidding on the name. I have several pictures of the school sign with that cloud just hanging there in the background. That awful, awful cloud. It just hung there in the air for hours, still reasonably coherent after all that time. The concert that night was only sparsely attended, but we played on anyway.

I was in a north Fort Hood, sitting in the field as part of a month long 2nd Armored Division field exercise.

My father had worked on the Apollo and SkyLab projects while I was growing up, so the news bothered me a great deal.