:: Saturday, January 28, 2006 ::
Remembering the Challenger disaster
Twenty years ago, I was working as a general assignment reporter for a small daily newspaper. We were just wrapping up the composition of the front page that morning (it was an afternoon paper, one of the few still around back then, and there are fewer today) and a few of us newsroom types were watching the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The crew included Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first teacher to enter space. But as we all know, she didn't make it. McAuliffe and the rest of the crew -- commander Dick Scobee, pilot Mike Smith and astronauts Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair and Greg Jarvis -- perished as the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.

We stood stunned before the newsroom television set, watching the explosion -- first live, then replayed -- and then knew we had to get to work. The presses weren't yet running, so we didn't have to stop them. But we did have to remake the front page. While R.D., the managing editor, ripped the waxed copy from the composition page, I started into my VDT (video display terminal), watching the wires for the first, comprehensive story we could pull off and paste on the front page. In a few minutes, Joel, a photographer who had been home that morning, walked in to announce he had shot pictures of the scene off his TV set, then rushed up to the dark room to develop the film. (This was in the era before digital cameras.)

We got the paper out later than usual, but we didn't miss out on the biggest story of the day. Normally, we would feel pretty good that our little local newspaper, which ran on a skeleton crew, could get the scoop on the big-city morning papers for a change. But not on that day. We all realized we had witnessed a great tragedy, and an event that -- like the sinking of the Titanic -- showed us, at a great cost, that technological achievement did not always live up to the promises.

, ,

:: Andrew 15:48 + ::

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