That was what I heard at 8:00 Saturday morning. The thing was that I didn’t find it at all unusual—I was expecting a dump truck to be delivering 12 cubic yards of fill dirt that I’d ordered, so I figured that the bang was signaling the arrival of said truck. So I looked outside to guide him around back to our driveway… but no dump truck. A little confused but not worried, I went back inside, and about half an hour later, the dump truck did indeed arrive and drop a big, black mound of North Texas clay topsoil on our driveway. As the bed of the truck was straightening back up after dumping its load, the truck’s gate slammed back against the truck with a resounding bang, so I was convinced that this is what I had heard in some form earlier in the morning.
At about 9:00 a.m., my sweetie now awake as well, we got a call from her mom, telling us that we needed to turn the TV to CNN. And only then did we find out what had happened. The early morning bang was no dump truck, and it wasn’t just me but everyone across North Texas who heard it—the space shuttle Columbia had broken up, almost literally over our heads. We sat in tragic awe for the next hour, watching the same video footage of the breakup over and over with the rest of the country, listening to report of debris falling to the ground in familiar towns to the east and southeast of us.
Eerily, the original CNN.com story ends with a quote by Columbia astronaut David Brown, said in jest prior to the trip home: “Do we really have to come back?”