On Saturday, January 29, 2005, Stratofox hosted a gathering for eyewitnesses of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident. The date was chosen as the weekend before the second anniversary of the accident. The location, Vito's New York Trattoria (Italian restaurant), was chosen partly for its close proximity to San Jose International Airport, in order to make it convenient for people travelling to the meeting.
This was the second meeting of its kind. The first meeting was on Feb 1, 2004, the first anniversary of the accident. We learned from that meeting that our impression was correct - eyewitnesses of this accident had similar experiences and found some comfort in meeting others to talk about it. All the eyewitnesses had made efforts to go see the re-entry. Some were able to see it from their homes. Others had to drive on top of mountains to get above fog. Still others drove to better vantage points, as much as 3 hours from home. All were waiting for Columbia to come.
Though most noticed at least something different than expected, none we've met so far knew Columbia was in real trouble at the time. Everyone had a story that included their preparations to watch the re-entry, their view of the re-entry, and how they learned about the accident. Those who had pictures or video also showed them and told of their sense of duty to provide it to the investigation.
So by our efforts to go see it, we all had made a connection with STS-107 before learning about the accident. That was what made the news of the accident hit eyewitnesses harder than most people. Many said it was helpful to meet others who had the same experience, since we're scattered over such a large geographical area. Some who took videos were relieved to hear that others also still experience sadness when they see their own videos, and now know that's normal following this kind of event.
At points during the meeting, we projected NASA's STS-107 Re-entry
Timeline 15.0 onto a screen.
It showed the vantage points of eyewitnesses whose videos were used
by the accident investigation.
It was impressive to note that most of those people were in the room.
Two others (John Sanford and Lionel Machado) who took videos that turned
out to be key for the investigation, had been to the previous
year's meeting but couldn't make it this time.
Several people commented that it was history in the making just getting
these people together and hearing them tell their stories.
Attendees of the meeting
These are the STS-107 eyewitnesses who attended the meeting and
spoke about their experiences.
The locations listed are where they viewed the re-entry.
The following Stratofox members were present. Note that some are also STS-107 eyewitnesses and are listed above as well.
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