Remembering the Challenger

I was a young reporter at Florida Today in Melbourne. Had just left the house I was sharing on Cocoa Beach that crisp, cool morning, to drive to the office. Remembered the launch was about to happen, so I pulled off of A1A at a viewing spot near Patrick Air Force Base — something of a front-row seat, as it wasn’t far from Cape Canaveral.

The shuttle shot straight up into the clear blue, began its swerve and then pieces separated, trailing white smoke. I immediately knew that something was wrong.
Several of the folks watching with me were employed by NASA or had friends or family in the space program, which was essential to the lifeblood of Brevard County in those days. Some of them began to cry.

My trusty reporter notebook was in my back pocket — its usual resting place — so I pulled it out and started interviewing folks. As part of my work on the team covering the tragedy, I wound up going to Orlando to interview the parents of Gregory Jarvis. His dad, Bruce Jarvis, had much to say about the failure of the O-rings being the culprit in the disaster.

That was a very sad day for America. Remember how we all shared in the mourning? Hard to believe that it has been 33 years — a lifetime ago.


  1. Thank you for the reminder. We have become nonchalant about these achievements and seemingly numbed to disasters that happen to others.

  2. I was standing outside the Sun Dome, where my office was at the time, with Jeff Hartzog and his back of house crew. These were all technical guys in the concert industry, so it was evident to everybody (even from 150 miles away) that the launch was not going well. We all went back to work silently. PS, this was before the web was big so we all found tvs or radios (not Google) to check that what we had seen was real.

    1. Before the immediate gratification of 24/7 cable news and the Internet. Kinder, gentler time in many respects. Thanks for your comment.

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