Ham radio club remembers shuttle tragedy

Posted by Morgan Chesky - bio | email

By Morgan Thomas

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KLTV) - It's been seven years since space shuttle Columbia fell from the sky over East Texas.

Coordinating crews from local, state, and federal agencies was challenging, but a group of East Texans did their part to ease communication.  It starts out as a hobby to most, but for East Texas Amateur Radio operators it became something much more during the space shuttle Columbia recovery seven years ago.

"Amateur radio helped the local government achieve what we needed to do," said Rusty Sanders, Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club President.

"We had a lot of amateur radio operators out in the forest with the search crews, finding the debris," added club member Army Curtis.

NASA, FEMA, local law enforcement, and state agencies were all working to a debris field covering miles of east Texas, but their communication equipment wasn't compatible. The Nacogdoches fire chief at the time, Rusty Sanders, knew there would be problems, so he called in his fellow amateur radio club members to help.

"Got a bunch of guys together, got them on the air," said Sanders, "Some of them immobile, some of them [with] portable radio and so forth and helped facilitate communication with all different groups."

The Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club has come together seven years later to recognize those efforts.  They broadcast Saturday from Mcmichael Middle School in Nacogdoches, spreading their message far and wide.

Curtis explained," [We have] two stations on the air on high frequency bands that allow us to talk to other amateurs primarily in the United States, but depending on the conditions at the moment we might very well be talking to stations overseas."

A message creating a memorial of sorts to all ham operators in East Texas.

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