A friend writes, movingly:

When the space shuttle disintegrated yesterday, they made it sound as if came apart over Lubbock or Dallas. I was hoping that the debris wouldn’t get as far as my grandmother’s ranch in southeast Texas.(My 84 year old grandmother singlehandedly runs a cattle ranch just outside a town called Broaddus.)

However, then they announced that debris had fallen in Nacogdoches, which is about 30 miles from my grandmother’s ranch. I got on the phone, but the lines in San Augustine (San AU-gus-teen) County were maxed out. I then tried calling one of my aunts in Houston to see if she had spoken to Grandmother. (Though as I dialled her number, I thought with the Johnson Space Flight Center in Clear Lake, Houston’s lines might be maxed out too, but they weren’t.) My aunt hadn’t talked to my grandmother either, so the two of us resolved to keep trying.

When the phone traffic in San Augustine County finally died down to the point that I could get through, my grandmother told me that she had been sitting at the Web that morning when she heard the explosion. She said it was so loud and long that she thought for half a second it might be the end of the world. She ran outside to see what she could see, but it was too foggy to see anything.

She also told me that she’d heard reports of debris having fallin in the town of San Augustine (20 miles away) and in the Chinquapin community (10 miles away). She said that later she was going to fire up the tractor and go around the farm to see if she could find anything to alert the authorities to.

Today there was news of doppler radar maps catching the debris field as it drifted through the atmosphere. If you want to see an animation of the path, look here:


What I realized when I saw the path (and confirmed using maps.yahoo.com) is that the plume of debris passed *right over* my grandmother’s ranch.

Needless to say, all this is a little weird for me as I’ve spent a good bit of time in all the places whose names you’re hearing on the news right now as debris cites–Nacogdoches, Lufkin, San Augustine. I have many memories of them and a feel for what they are like. These are tiny little places, and it is really strange to think of the shuttle debris raining down on them. This is undoubtedly the biggest thing to happen to these little towns in decades.

I know that the memory of the tragedy will haunt me the next time I’m there.