Searching for Columbia - Day 1

With 2 days notice Dan and I were dispatched to Texas in late February to help lead legions of federal firefighters in the search for Columbia's remains in eastern Texas. Over the next days I'll post the story of that trip.

We got to the airport 2 hours before our flight. Flying with a one way ticket bought the day before does not allow you a speedy departure. We were put through every known screening the airport has. Searching every article we brought, taking a little more than 2 hours. Leaving the confiscated items (waterproof matches) from the checked bags with Josh to take home we headed off to the terminal. Again are carry-ons were searched as well as our shoes and our clothing. With 10 minutes to catch our plane hope was not my dominant feeling, but we got there just as the doors were getting ready to close. Having seen Kevin in line and knew that he was not going to make the flight but we met our team leader Kelly from Rocky Mountain Rescue Group when we got on the plane.

We began to prepare ourselves for the job that lay ahead. I went over some equations for POD and spacing that I took out of Managing a Lost Person Incident. One equation I found interesting was POD = 100 - (.5 x spacing). I am interested to see the studies behind this particular equation -- a topic for another time.

Anyway, back to the trip. We arrived in Houston to nice weather. We were picked up and taken to the TICC (Texas Incident Command Center). We were catching glimpses of the terrain that we were going to be working in. It looked really rough. I questioned our driver on the road system and the local area. We had to go pick up our vehicles in Lufkin and drive ourselves from there. We all got SUVs or trucks. This turned out to be a necessity for the area we were going to. We drove down the road to the Emergency Operations Center and were officially checked in. We got some official looking badges and met with Shawn Bailey and Tom Minor. We were briefed on the incident and given Satellite phones that never worked, GPS?s and cell phones.

They were taking pictures of some shuttle debris in the lobby and I got my first glimpse of what we were looking for. They definitely were not parts from a 77 Chevy I can tell you that much. We got something to eat and headed off to the Tex-Ann Motel for some rest.