Recalling Challenger

Challenger Lift-off.  (Photo from
January 28, 1986 - 30 years ago today - I was working at KJJC - FM in Osceola, Iowa as news director.

The morning drive was over.  I was working on getting items together for the noon newscast and likely doing some phone interviews to run during the pre-game show of Friday night's basketball game broadcast.

Shortly after 10:38 that morning, the Associated Press teletype machine started dinging.  Rapidly.

Five or ten times it rang out.

I left my office, crossing the hall into the closet we used for the teletype.

At 10:40, the report read:

(Cape Canaveral, Florida) - There appears to be a major problem after the launch of the shuttle "Challenger."

At 10:41:

"NASA" says the vehicle has exploded.

The next several minutes and many hours after - new bulletins chimed for attention.

I broke into regular programming with an update and the ABC radio network covered the story at the top of each hour.

Meanwhile, I read closely each detail about the flight and the teacher on-board.  Information poured in about her and other members of the crew with early guesses as what caused such a horrific tragedy.

In radio, using items from the Associated Press was known as "rip and read."  We ripped it off the wire machine.  Then we trimmed it using a sharp-edge ruler to give us a manageable sized paper to hold during the newscast.  We read it.  Then tossed it.

But not this time.  For years, I saved a nearly two inch thick collection of all the Challenger stories from the first bulletin to the last on January 28.  

Around 6 years ago, I gave them to a son of a friend of mine going into Journalism. I knew he'd appreciate seeing news in it's immediate nature.

The Challenger disaster was a punch to America's solar plexus knocking the wind right out of us.  We recovered and faced other sharp blows in the years since.

Space exploration continues with men and women continuing to risk their lives for the potential bettering of mankind.

Perhaps the best use of today's anniversary is to salute and thank them for their courage.