Indelible image of Challenger explosion remains for then-rookie school cop 28 years later & now retired

Memory of nation's tragedy like that of JFK assassination & terrorism collapse of Twin Towers seared in memory banks of Dorothy Lytle Kirby

Dorothy Lytle Kirby was a rookie cop when Chalenger shuttle exploded / Headline Surfer®YouTube video uploads / Headline Surfer® /
Left: raw video with focus on students of teacher 
Christa McAuliffe and her parents watching in horror as the space shuttle Challenger explodes.
Center: Gut-wrenching remembrance of that fateful afternoon.
Right: Re-creation explainer on 73 seconds to disaster.
 

DAYTONA BEACH -- Dorothy Lytle Kirby certainly remembers where she was on this particular day 28 years ago today to be exact, the day millions in Central Florida and countless more glued to television sets to witness the horror that was the space shuttle Challenger.

73 seconds. Just 73 seconds for cheers to turn to tears and then pronounced grief.

Certainly, today was remembered by Dorothy Lytle Kirby, then in rookie cop training at Daytona State College known back then as Daytona Beach Community College.

"Wow, 28 years ago," Kirby, four-plus years now since retired as a cop with the New Smyrna Beach PD, told Headline Surfer® earlier today. "I was in the stair well at DBCC in rookie school. We weren't allowed to use the elevator. We all watched from the window when it took off, then ran down the stairs. When we got outside to go to lunch, the trails from the explosion were in the sky."

"Wow, 28 years ago," Kirby, four-plus years now since retired as a cop with the New Smyrna Beach PD, told Headline Surfer® earlier today. "I was in the stair well at DBCC in rookie school. We weren't allowed to use the elevator. We all watched from the window when it took off, then ran down the stairs. When we got outside to go to lunch, the trails from the explosion were in the sky."

Space Shuttle Challenger explosion / Headline Surfer®Like those with her, Kirby, now 57, said she remembered thinking aloud, "This doesn't look right. When we got to the cafeteria everyone was crying and we found out what happened. It was a sad day."

For Kirby, who would graduate from the DBCC police academy and report for patrol duties with the NSBPD later that year, the lone law enforcement job she ever worked for 23 years before retiring in 2009, has the tragic events of Challenger seared in her memory banks nearly three decades later.

When that happened, as soon as I graduated, I applied in NSB and was hired," she said. "Like (President) Kennedy being shot, and the Twin Towers going down, it's something you never forget where you were. Even though I was a kid when Kennedy was shot, I still remember being in elementary school. Some things you never forget."

When that happened, as soon as I graduated, I applied in NSB and was hired," she said. "Like (President) Kennedy being shot, and the Twin Towers going down, it's something you never forget where you were. Even though I was a kid when Kennedy was shot, I still remember being in elementary school. Some things you never forget."

FAST FACTS: American audience watches in disbelief

Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live because of the presence of crew member Christa McAuliffe, the first member of the Teacher in Space Project, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident.
The Challenger disaster has been used as a case study in many discussions of engineering safety and workplace ethics.
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.