The Columbia disaster — live only on the Net
New York Times report.
“Some of the shuttle trackers in the western United States also kept an eye on the skies, and shared their impressions online. An illustration of their reactions, moving from excitement to confusion to horror, can be found in an online discussion for shuttle buffs on the Free Republic Web site; it was begun by a reader 38 minutes before the Columbia’s scheduled 9:16 landing.
The first sign of something wrong comes at 9:05 — at least 11 minutes before The Associated Press moved the first wire-service alert and the TV networks began live coverage (which had the first video of the breakup, shot minutes before). …”.
The article reprints the internet chat dialogue as the tragedy unfolds. It makes remarkably gripping reading.