John Muratore, my good friend, fellow flight director, and then the head of the shuttle program Systems Engineering and Integration office informed me in very flat terms that he was in the JSC video lab with head photo interpreter Cindy Evans who had uncovered evidence of a large foam liberation during the critical mach number regime which appeared to have impacted the left wing of Discovery. Just like Columbia.
I was numb.
I made an illegal U-turn in the middle of NASA Road 1 and definitely exceeded the posted speed limit heading back to JSC and the photo lab. Here is one still frame from the video they showed me: A very large piece of foam coming off the tank heading for the wing.
I thought I would not be able to breathe again.
I thought of Eileen and her crew and how we had probably just killed them.
I thought of all the work and time and how wasted it had been.
I had no idea how I could possibly tell the team, the world, what had transpired.