HEMPHILL, TX (KTRE) - Army Curtis describes a Saturdaymorning in February nearly a decade ago, when the space shuttle Columbiadisintegrated over East Texas.
"The noise was incredible and itliterally shook the house like we were in an earthquake," said ArmyCurtis, Secretary/Treasurer Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club.
"It was very emotional, it gotvery personal very quickly," said museum board member, Marsha Cooper.
Nine years later members of the NacogdochesAmateur Radio Club gather at the Patricia Huffman Smith Museum, to honor thevolunteers who served as the only means of communication in a time of tragedy.
"In a matter of a few hours youcouldn't use a cell phone. We're completely independent; everyone has their ownequipment we were still able to communicate," said Curtis.
With over 2 thousand volunteers,officials needed order to recover debris from the fallen shuttle.
"Everybody had the same feeling thatwe had to get those and return them back to their families you know, It wasvery important to us to find them asquickly as possible," said Cooper.
DPS officers from all over the statecame to East Texas but once they got there, their radio systems lost service.They had to depend on the volunteer radio amateurs.
"We literally put an amateur ineach of the DPS cars to provide communication for them," said Curtis.
For two weeks the use of ham radio helpedrecover fallen crew members as well large pieces of debris from the ship. Todaytheir service isn't forgotten. A specialevents station was set up inside the shuttle museum to contact amateur stationsworldwide in remembrance of heroes.
"These are our heroes these arethe volunteers who help support bringing these heroes back home," said JohnChapman, PIO Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club.