First Identified Shuttle Debris Lands In Smith County

It was shortly after ten o'clock when the first piece of debris was identified on county road 1405, just outside of Jacksonville. While people were at first amazed by is thought to be part of the shuttle, the realization quickly set in that this tragedy was coming close to home.

"You hear about so many things," Rhonda Parker said after seeing the scene. "And then right here in your own backyard, this is happening."

The fragment is about four feet long and fourteen inches at it's widest point. With rivets on one side and tile paneling on the other, the men who initially found the piece were led to one conclusion.

"With the way it looked," Darold Dickerson says, "And with all the riveting and the little squares from the ceramic tiles, it made us felt like 99.9% sure it was part of the shuttle."

Cherokee County was in Columbia's path, and the fallout from the shuttle quickly made its way earthward. Local resident S.R. Smith said when he arrived, it was still hot.

"It was smoldering," he says, "with just a vapor coming off of it."

a DPS trooper came to examine the wreckage, and cordoned off the area awaiting official investigation. The site quickly became a curiousity, as people couldn't believe what happened in the sky could wind up in their backyards.

"I just couldn't believe that it happened close to home," Wayne McAnally, who lives less than a half a mile from the site. "We heard reports that people were finding stuff all around, but it's just scary to know that it happened close to home."

Just another quiet Texas Saturday, shattered by a piece of the sky.

Reid Kerr ( reporting.