RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – A Canadian newspaper coined the best phrase to describe the 49 percent meltdown in Nortel stock on Wednesday:

“Nortel Networks Corp. tottered toward the abyss Wednesday as its shares lost half their value in one day” – Halifax Chronicle Herald

And catch this sizzling paragraph from The Wall Street Journal in recapping the 9/17/08 disaster that will forever live in infamy for Nortel workers, retirees and shareholders:

“The Toronto-based equipment maker said it was planning a new round of layoffs and would try to sell a small but promising division to try to raise cash, throwing into doubt the ability of Chief Executive Mike Zafirovski to turn around the long-struggling company.”

Mr. Z has put his own management team in place and reshaped the company’s board since taking over Nortel three years ago. So is he in trouble? I doubt that. However, his company is. Just how much can the battered company take?

After Nortel (NYSE: NT) disclosed before the markets opened that its revenues were suffering and it planned to sell off its metro Ethernet division, stockholders fled faster than Republicans from President Bush. A dumping frenzy drove Nortel shares to a 25-year low.

Here are some headlines and top sentences from some coverage to show just how bad the Nortel bloodbath was:

• The End of Nortel? – Mark Evans, AllThingsNortel blog

• Nortel Networks Corp. has opted for radical surgery to save itself in the face of a sudden market downturn – Globe and Mail, Toronto

• Nortel Heads South –

• Somehow, despite the dozens of disappointments that preceded it, yesterday’s revelation from Nortel Networks seemed ominously different. – Ottawa Citizen

• The sale of Nortel’s optical networking business could generate more than $1.5 billion US in cash for the struggling company. But whether it can save Nortel … – Ottawa Citizen

• Shares of Nortel Networks Corp. plumbed new depths yesterday – Toronto Star

• Nortel: Would a Breakup Be Best? – BusinessWeek

• Nortel slashes outlook, looks for asset buyers –

• Nortel in crisis again, plans new restructuring – Reuters

• Nortel shares plunge on outlook – Associated Press

• Nortel plunges after profit – Financial Times

What words to keep in a scrapbook.