Friday, February 01, 2008
Five Years Ago Today
I got up and had two tasks to take care of. I was going to the barber to get a haircut and I had to go buy two new tires for one of our cars.
I was in the barber shop, in my guy's chair and getting a cut when the barber next to him received a phone call.
When he hung up the phone, he turned to Dave, the guy cutting my hair and said, "That was my wife. She said the Space Shuttle is over due and they think something has gone wrong."
The owner of the shop heard part of this and had Paul repeat what he had said.
The owner went to the back of the shop and came out with a TV set, and another barber cleared off some counter space, and they turned it on and tried to tune in a station.
They were able to get reception of one of the Orlando stations that had been covering Columbia's return anyway.
It was about this time that the first reports and footage from California and Texas started coming in, both news and home videos of what looked to be a cluster of meteors entering the atmosphere.
When I saw that, I knew there wasn't any hope left.
It was one of those times where things seemed to get really quiet and where time itself seemed to drag slowly.
I still have snapshots in my mind of how everyone was standing and sitting in the barber shop that day as we all watched what we understood to be one of those tragedies that we would always remember, both the event and where we were and what we were doing at the time.
After my haircut was finished, I went over to a tire shop, and while having two tires put on our car, I sat in their "waiting room" and watched with the other tire buyers of that day, the further news reports as they came on their TV.
The space program is such a big and proud part of where we live.
Kennedy Space Center is about 40 miles north of our home here in Palm Bay, and when the shuttle enters the atmosphere it sometimes glides right up the Atlantic Coast of Florida, essentially right over our heads.
When the shuttle approaches Kennedy from the south like that, it drags it's sonic boom right over our home, and it literally rattles the windows and shakes the house. Everybody jumps, startled even when we were expecting it, and the dogs run around barking, thinking someone's at the door or whatever.
Apparently, Columbia was coming in from the west that day, and from the time it gets through the atmosphere to when the wheels touch down at Kennedy, only 15 minutes will pass.
It literally comes through the atmosphere over California and will touch down in Florida 15 minutes later. Amazing.
So there's just this tiny window where if the shuttle is a couple of minutes late, they know something terrible has happened.
It's not an exciting story, but that's my story about where I was when Shuttle Columbia broke apart on reentry five years ago today.
It's one I'd rather not have experienced.
When I was a kid in the late 1960s, early 1970s, I ate up all the information I could get about astronauts and the space program. And living so close to Kennedy Space Center, we can walk outside at work or even from our front yard and see the Shuttle go up. We can also see Titan and Delta rockets lift off from Canaveral Air Force Station as well.
At work, there's always a bunch of us that go outside, or if we're in a building with access to the roof, we'll go up there to watch liftoffs.
It's always a proud moment to see these things.
This photo was taken by a company photographer where I work. The building below the arc of the shuttle launch is the building that I presently work in. (This photo was taken in the mid 1990s before we moved here though.)