I was a coop student, on work term
. I was in a pub
in the Royal Bank plaza, having an early lunch with a friend from university. I was facing the big rear projection TV
which had the launch on - picture, but no sound. I looked up from my sandwich to see that strange exhaust cloud that looked like some kind of devil's pitchfork
. Without sound it wasn't clear what had happened, until they cut to a very gim faced announcer. Even with no sound, that's when I knew for sure.
I got back to work at the bank, to tell the full-timers what had happened. But while I was out, one of the guys got a phone call that his wife, home sick in their native Phillipines, had died of cancer. So I mentioned my "big news" in passing, but it didn't seem so earth-shaking after all in the face of a much closer personal tragedy.
But seeing a replay or a still of that cloud still twists my guts.
Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded?
I don't know where author Dan Simmons was, but his short story "Two Minutes Forty-Five Seconds" deals with the Challenger explosion in a cathartic way. the story appeared in OMNI and is included in his collection Prayers to Broken Stones.