Longview firefighters remember Columbia recovery effort - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Longview firefighters remember Columbia recovery effort

Posted: Updated:

In the aftermath of the Columbia shuttle tragedy in 2003, an army of forestry workers and volunteers from all over the country converged on East Texas, and hundreds of volunteers from area police and fire departments.

Hundreds of East Texas police and firefighters volunteered during the massive search of huge tracks of land after Columbia went down.

"We had gotten toned out to an unknown explosion on the west side of town, we got back from that, 5 minutes later we find out Columbia had gone down," says Longview firefighter Erasmo Lopez, who was on duty when the shuttle went down.

Judson Metro VFD chief Mike Fennel was with Longview fire in 2003 , and had the grim job of recovery afterwards.

"I was sitting at my house , drinking coffee, heard a loud explosion. Little did I know at the time that our lives here had just been changed. They asked guys who had 4 wheelers any of the fireman that were law enforcement officers anything like that. We sent about 15, 20 firefighters," Fennell says.

It was a job that haunts Fennell to this day. Walking on ground that contained clues to what happened the shuttle astronauts.

"We knew kind of what we were looking for and it was very solemn," says Fennell.

For months they combed forests, meadows and briar thickets.

"Might be as small as the end of a pencil or as large as the roof of a car," he says.

And memories that will never go away.

"As long as I live , I'll always remember that," Lopez says.

During the height of the Columbia recovery effort, whole departments volunteered from all over East Texas to pitch in, many running on skeleton crews to allow their personnel to help.

Copyright 2013 KLTV. All rights reserved.

  • East Texas NewsMore>>

  • Texas man's life celebrated in Lufkin Mural

    Texas man's life celebrated in Lufkin Mural

    Friday, August 1 2014 12:20 AM EDT2014-08-01 04:20:32 GMT
    Source: KTRE StaffSource: KTRE Staff
    Durell Gray is one of a few people whose picture graces a wall in downtown Lufkin. His picture sits at the corner of Frank and First Street.So how did the now 86-year-old man get his picture painted on a wall scene by hundreds every day? It all started while Gray worked as a lineman for the Lufkin Conroe Telephone Company. He said one day he received a letter in the mail from his employer asking for his help."They contacted us asking us if any lineman had picture with their gear on," Gray sai...More >>
    Durell Gray is one of a few people whose picture graces a wall in downtown Lufkin. His picture sits at the corner of Frank and First Street.So how did the now 86-year-old man get his picture painted on a wall scene by hundreds every day? It all started while Gray worked as a lineman for the Lufkin Conroe Telephone Company. He said one day he received a letter in the mail from his employer asking for his help."They contacted us asking us if any lineman had picture with their gear on," Gray sai...More >>
  • Puppies found in hot car, up for adoption

    Puppies found in hot car, up for adoption

    Thursday, July 31 2014 8:36 PM EDT2014-08-01 00:36:40 GMT
    The six pit bull puppies found in a hot car on Monday will soon be put up for adoption.More >>
    The six pit bull puppies found in a hot car on Monday will soon be put up for adoption.More >>
  • Hudson couple builds family home out of Styrofoam

    Hudson couple builds family home out of Styrofoam

    Thursday, July 31 2014 8:10 PM EDT2014-08-01 00:10:51 GMT
    The start of the Cockrell's family home The start of the Cockrell's family home
    A Hudson couple is taking a unique spin on home building by using an environmentally friendly method to build their family home.More >>
    A Hudson couple is taking a unique spin on home building by using an environmentally friendly method to build their family home.More >>
Powered by WorldNow
KTRE logo

KTRE

358 TV Road,
Pollok TX 75969

FCC Public File
publicfile@ktre.com
936-853-8639
EEO Report
Closed Captioning

All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Worldnow and KTRE. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.