Space Shuttle Challenger Explodes As Millions Watch (January 28, 1986)
The morning of Jan. 28, 1986, a Tuesday, was a cold one in New York, following a surprise 1.5" snowfall overnight. I was back at work (ad agency Young & Rubicam) after having been out sick on Monday and the previous Friday. Shortly before noon my secretary, Voula, came clomping into my office to deliver the day's mail and blurted out that the space shuttle had exploded. Then she made a snide comment about the teacher, Christa McCauliffe, who was on board, let out a little cackle, and walked out. I left my office and walked over to the office of a broadcast buyer to watch the unending replay of the shuttle's disintegration against the clear blue Florida sky. What was chilling was the crowd reaction at the launch site because at first they didn't understand what they had just witnessed but as the realization came over them their excited gasps of wonder turned to sobs of distress.
This date also sticks in mind because after coming home from work I went to electronics store Crazy Eddie near my apartment in Greenwich Village and bought my first color TV - a 14" Sharp. I paid $329 for it, at the time the largest single purchase I'd ever made. I was really looking forward to watching that evening's episode of Moonlighting in color.
(The book Truth, Lies & O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster provides a detailed account of what led to the shuttle's tragic demise.)
The day of the Shuttle explosion was a Tuesday, bitter cold and sunny. I was at the newspaper office in Bernardsville, finishing up the movie listings for the entertainment section which I edited for Recorder Community Newspapers. One of our reporters was on the phone with the police and he turned and said, "the cops just said the shuttle blew up." At first, we thought it was a bad joke. The cops were known for pulling a reporter's leg at any opportunity so I grabbed another phone and called my mom. I knew she would be home watching TV. When she answered and I said, Mom..." before I could ask, she said, "It's true, it exploded." I left the office and went to my parents home nearby to see it for myself. At our newspaper we were shaken because the backup for Christa McCauliffe was a local teacher from Mendham. We had to track her down and interview her; the front pages of all our papers not printed yet had to be redone, and editorials had to be written quickly. It was very somber back at my home bureau in Stirling. On the way home that night, I stopped at the local catholic church. The doors were open and there were a lot of people there lighting candles. I lit seven for the astronauts. Didn't know what else to do.
Posted by: Maureen | 01/25/2010 at 02:42 PM