Skip to comments.'It's just horrible' - Columbia tragedy through eyewitness accounts in Texas
Posted on 02/01/2003 6:30:52 PM PST by MeekOneGOP
'It's just horrible'
From the suburbs north of Dallas to the far reaches of East Texas, residents heard a deafening explosion and saw flaming debris rain from the sky Saturday as the space shuttle Columbia apparently disintegrated minutes from a scheduled landing.
Arlington resident James McAdams, 64, said he found some baseball-sized rubble in his front yard when he picked up his morning newspaper. He described it as "jagged on one section, white on one side and the other side is purple to black like it's been burned."
"The FBI is here and they are waiting on further orders on what to do with it," Mr. McAdams said. "They have it roped it off to make sure nobody touches it."
Jim and Brenda Cunningham rose early to watch the shuttle pass over their Plano home. They telephoned their son, Ryan, who was watching from his apartment on the west side of Plano. Jim Cunningham said as the craft approached from the west, he saw what he thought were flares. "There were four pieces all flying in formation around the main body of the shuttle just as it went out of view," he said.
"I thought, - Well, maybe it's supposed to look like that. - When the segments became so large, you knew it wasn't supposed to look like that. It was not a pleasant thing to see once we knew what was happening" Mr. Cunningham said. "We heard the report on TV that they lost contact with the shuttle and that's when you have to admit that it was as bad as we thought it was. It's just horrible. You have to feel for the crew and their families."
Columbia had been expected to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:16 a.m. NASA declared an emergency after losing communication with Columbia as the ship soared across Texas at an altitude of about 200,000 feet while traveling at six times the speed of sound. All seven astronauts aboard were killed as the shuttle broke apart in flames.
In Nacogdoches, where much of the debris was centered, dozens of bits of machinery and metal were strewn across the city.
Allison Haley, a Stephen F. Austin University student, was waiting for her boss to open the doors at a Nacogdoches clothing store when she saw something drop from the sky about six feet from her car.
"It's about 5 inches long and it looks like a piece of burned metal and it has an oily substance on it. Later we saw more debris coming down, just hanging in the sky, and it was white," she said.
When Darlene Johnson got to work at the downtown Yakofritz Sandwich Shop, she found a piece of metal the size of a car door in the bank parking lot next door.
"It hit the ground so hard it tore up the pavement and there are pieces of concrete scattered. It's a large piece of metal and you can tell where it's been burned," she said.
Cindy Davis, 43, heard a "kaboom" and felt the explosion at her home in Price, about 60 miles north of Nacogdoches.
"It was like someone was trying to get in my front door. It was rattling back and forth, the widows were vibrating and the light fixtures shook," she said.
Ms. Price said she tried to locate the source, but didn't see anything when she went outside.
"I called my husband on his mobile out in the pasture and he said he heard it but didn't see anything. I turned on the TV and they said the shuttle was flying over East Texas and they lost communication," she said. "I knew what happened."
The commotion startled residents, who say the city of 30,000 is usually sedate.
"We have a school and post office. Nothing ever happens here," Ms. Price said. "It just breaks your heart that in that 16 minutes they would land and their family was waiting on them."
NASA enthusiast Roxanne Craig, 48, had been tracking the shuttle's progress overnight and saw that it was going to soar past her southwest Corsicana home. "So I got the video camera ready. When I saw it going through New Mexico I decided to get outside," she said. "At first it appeared the shuttle was intact and as it got closer it started throwing out sparkles and we weren't sure what that was. The vapor trail was very massive and widespread."
Ms. Craig said she went inside and heard on TV that NASA had lost communication with the shuttle. Moments later, she heard two loud booms that shook her house. Later, the family found two nugget-size pieces of debris in their driveway.
"They were about the size of a quarter and they were very shiny aluminum," she said. "The police wouldn't let us touch them. They put them in baggies and took them."
The explosion was heard as far away as Edgewood, N.M., a town of 5,000 some 25 miles east of Albuquerque.
"At first I thought something had fallen in the attic like a water heater. It jarred the roof of our house," Mark Winscott said. "Then I talked to my dad who said the shuttle had blown up."
Watch WFAA-TV (Ch. 8) and TXCN (Cable Ch. 38 in Dallas area) for news updates throughout the day and read more in tomorrow's Dallas Morning News .
I call upon all Texans to use your good sense, and mark the spot of all found parts of the shuttle. Then, do not touch, call the Sheriff's Office. They will be in communication with NASA.
Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who biddest the mighty ocean deep Its own appointed limits keep; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard And hushed their raging at Thy Word, Who walked on the foaming deep, And calm amidst its rage didst sleep; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood Upon the chaos dark and rude, And bid its angry tumult cease, And give, for wild confusion, peace; Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!
Lord, guard and guide the men who fly Though the great spaces in the sky. Be with them always in the air, In darkening storms or sunlight fair; Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer, For those in peril in the air!
Aloft in solitudes of space, Uphold them with Thy saving grace. Thou Who supports with tender might The balanced birds in all their flight. Lord, if the tempered winds be near, That, having Thee, they know no fear.
O Trinity of love and power! Our family shield in dangers hour; From rock and tempest, fire and foe, Protect us wheresoever we go; Thus evermore shall rise to Thee Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
I second that. I think Texans will respond appropriately. By the way, NASA spokesman noted a while back that they were getting good response from locals and that they appreciated it...
Descending, only to rise!
Of God's green Earth
In a blaze of fire!
Worldly friction didn't win
Every trouble fades
On that heavenly high
Pushing out further
Than man has ever been
On the frontier
Of the deep dark night
Pushing the limits
Of this mortal life
We will never know
Unless we strive
The brave live forever
Seared into our hearts
Not knowing they were heroes
Just doing their part
But they'll not be forgotten
In the troubled times ahead
By courageous example
They have forever led
Came to carry them away
To their eternal home
In God's eternal sky
Dedicated to the crew of Columbia - 2/1/03
This just sickens me that the good people of Israel have to endure another loss.
God has inspired many freepers today with outpourings of words that touch the heart and restore the soul.
May God comfort the families of Columbia's 7 Astronauts and all of those who are grieving today at NASA and across the Nation.
I remember when the first mission to the moon was returning in 1969, I believe. I was helping to run a summer school program and every classroom had their TV turned on. I drove 9 children to school that morning, and we were all preoccupied with the men who had walked on the moon. We did not know if they would get back safely, or if they would be harmed irreparably from the experience.
I was running the office and was so distracted that I forgot that my 4 year old had accompanied me. I watched the splashdown with rapt attention while I recorded the attendance and was greatly relieved when the capsule landed safely and the astronauts had made it aboard the recovery ship. I turned to my 4 year old with joy and was appalled to find that he wasn't there!
In a panic, I ran back to the car -- no Andy. Then I raced to his next older sister's classroom and found him. She'd taken him to her Kindergarten class when we all got out of the car, and I hadn't noticed because my mind was elsewhere. He was happily ensconced in an activity in a class where he was too young to be enrolled. Luckily the teacher was understanding and even invited him to stay on.
I only relate this experience to remind everyone of the way we viewed our early space missions. Many people on this board are too young to remember this.
Nothing can stop us
Perfect landings are assured
A long as we keep
The right attitude
Don't let life's tribulations
Melt the wings that make you fly
And you'll make a perfect landing
The faithful never die
Many things can cause us trouble
As we tread this vale of tears
But we choose the way we handle
Our uncertainty and fears
Our faith must rest completely
Where our Father sits on high
As we look to Him to lead us
He will teach us how to fly
Every word of the verse is meaningful, and I like the story about the history of the music. I hope they sing it at church tomorrow, but I suppose that is too much to expect since I don't live in a Navy town.