On this day, January 28, 1986:

I saw the strange, jagged clouds in the northern sky as I left my apartment in Port St Lucie, FL to go to work on that cold morning. I had no idea what they were.

I tuned my radio to WRMF. At the time, I thought it was the best programmed, best imaged adult contemporary music station, and paid close attention to what they did and how they did it. I was the music director at WSTU Stuart and wanted to crib what I could.

Strangely, there was no music. There was only a live feed from a news network. They were talking about some terrible accident. They said they just couldn’t see how there could be any survivors.

I thought maybe an airliner had crashed.

It was a few minutes later one of the anchors mentioned something about the Kennedy Space Center. I looked again at the jagged clouds to the north. Then I understood.

I had been watching the countdown to the launch on CNN before I left for work but had to turn off the TV to finish getting ready. I couldn’t conceive that it was going to be anything other than a typical, routine launch, like the many I had seen before.

There was no music on WSTU that afternoon. We too carried a live network news feed. We carried it all the way through President Reagan’s address on the Challenger tragedy. Nothing felt much the same after that day.

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