I was at the beginning of my third (and, as it turned out, final) year as Staff Editor for “Comics Buyer’s Guide” and “Goldmine.” I was filing photographs for the latter (a newspaper for record collectors) when one of the women who worked in production came in to tell us that the space shuttle had exploded. I wandered to where my desk was near Don and Maggie Thompson’s, and Don was talking about it. As it turned out, Steven, the youngest of the Thompsons, had been home from school and saw the first broadcasts. He called his dad to tell him the news. I think it spread throughout the company soon after. The new was broadcast from radio over the Krause PA system.
I got home for lunch and called my friend Rosie. The first words out of her mouth were “Did you see it?” I turned on CNN and, not long after, the tape played. It was the entire tape, showing the shuttle sluggishly lifting off, then soaring heavenward, and then the awful explosion of the main tank and the two booster rockets going off by themselves, leaving the trail behind them like some hideous insect antennae. Then the camera went back to capture the expressions of the McAullife family, the people slowly leaving the stands, one woman talking to someone, the woman yelling “It’s just not there!”
That night, when I got home from work, I watched the coverage on CNN for two hours. (It was the only game in cable news at the time.) I was going to watch the CBS News special at 9 oclock Central, but I suddenly realized how tired I was. I think it was one of the times I can look back and realize I was emotionally exhausted.
The next day, I got to work early and wrote much of the editorial that would run the following issue of CBG. Don and Maggie would add their own thoughts, as well as doing some edits on what I’d written, but much of it was unchanged. I especially remember mentioning Norman Mailer’s book about the first moon landing, “Fire on the Moon,” reminding people that traveling into space required riding atop a pillar of fire, something we’d come to take for granted. When the column was published, it was one of the few editorials to run with all three of our names as the writers.
I don’t remember if I put this in the column, but it popped into my head around that time that the news about Challenger may have hit people of that time the way the news about the Titanic hit people in its day. Not in terms of the death toll, of course, Titanic was much greater in that respect. But both ships represented technology, a technology that the people of the time were proud of — but also complacent about. And then that complacency was shattered in the most horrific way imaginable. And I think everyone watching every shuttle launch following Challenger, for a split second, relived that awful moment.
|Former Staff Editor on Comics Buyer's Guide, now working for Uncle Sam at the USPS. Am a fan of comic books, cartoons, just about all female transformations (TG and female feline excluded).|