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.

Formerly at:
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.