I was in that “I’m going to miss everything” stage – friends, co-workers, potholes, restaurants, sights. And I was really going to miss my barn. The whole time I lived in
So that morning I was lying in bed, sleeping in a little, although I’d already checked the sky through the bedroom window: sunny and bright blue. It was January but it was a warm day. A nice day for running errands and finishing up the packing.
A loud roaring sound, sort of like thunder but louder and longer, opened my eyes. My bed started shaking – I thought it was the cats, but no, they were on the bedroom floor freaking out, ears flat and tails frizzed. We looked at each other and couldn’t figure out what the roaring and shaking meant. The whole barn was rattling. I still couldn’t see anything outside my window but blue sky, utterly cloudless. It went on for at least 30 seconds, maybe a minute. When it was over I ran all over the apartment looking for clues and finding none. I looked through my front window and saw my landlord standing on the driveway behind his house, looking at the sky and scratching his head. I figured he was as confused as I was (though I found out later he could see exactly what had happened).
I went back upstairs to my bed and called my dad to tell him I’d just experienced my first earthquake. My dad was skeptical. While we were talking I could hear my step-mom in the background. They’d gotten up early to watch the space shuttle fly overhead as it came down to land. She said, “They’ve lost the shuttle.” All three of us realized at the same moment that the noise I’d heard and the shaking I’d felt had been Columbia coming to earth in pieces in East Texas.
The rest of the day was surreal. I watched CNN report the tragedy on my landlord’s television (mine was already on the road to
I did run some of my errands that day, although parts of town were roped off by FEMA as they salvaged pieces of the shuttle. I couldn’t get to my bank and post office – a piece of fuselage had landed in the parking lot.
The rest of that week was a blur. The town was taken over by FEMA and news reporters. I was packing and doing last-minute things. All of us were in shock, trying to process what had happened. I kept remembering the Challenger disaster in 1986 – like a lot of school kids that day, my friends and I sat in the cafeteria watching the footage over and over, watching the shock change our teachers’ faces into unfamiliar masks.
A friend of mine told me that to him the
But I disagree with him.
It had seemed like such a nice ordinary day.
The space shuttle program is scheduled to be retired in 2010.
Rick D. Husband, mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Standing from left are David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist from the Israeli Space Agency.