Those who heard the sound of Columbia plummeting to East Texas will never forget it.
Typically, with a big news event there is a place to send journalists — the site of tornado damage, a fire, the location of a shooting. With Columbia, the site was nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The explosion occurred high in the sky, and chunks of debris fell in a huge swath from the Metroplex to the Louisiana border.
Our angle to this national tragedy was to tell the story of the debris recovery effort and document reaction from our fellow East Texans.
There were many questions to be answered. Where had the debris fallen? Was it safe to touch it? Should you remove it? Had chunks of the space shuttle fallen through houses or hurt anyone on the ground?
We received a call from Dr. Scott Lieberman, a Tyler cardiologist and photography enthusiast. He was taking photos of a small dot in the sky — the Columbia in re-entry — when the dot turned into a flash followed by streaking trail caused by burning debris.
Dr. Lieberman was one of the few people to capture Columbia's tragic ending. His amazing photos were carried in the paper and distributed to papers around the world.
We decided to publish a special section in the next day's paper (a very rare occurrence). Many of us worked from early morning until late into the night, and then did the same thing for the next three days.
As journalists, we are privileged to be able to provide information that people need, and to tell great news stories — both tragic and wonderful.
Coverage of the Columbia explosion was one of our finest accomplishments.
Danny Mogle is managing editor for the Tyler Morning Telegraph.