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Jonathan Ward, of Greensboro, and Kathryn Schwille, of Charlotte, have teamed up to offer two perspectives of this little-told and an oft-forgotten story of the Columbia space shuttle. Both books offer a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
When the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated on re-entry in 2003, it spread debris in a 100-mile swath over rural east Texas, triggering the largest ground search in US history.
Thousands of searchers from across the U.S. joined government agencies and the residents of East Texas in a massive effort to recover remains of the shuttle and its crew from the dense, snake-infested terrain.
The shuttle fell six weeks before the U.S. went to war with Iraq; the story of the heroic search that returned 84,000 pieces of the spacecraft to NASA has been largely overlooked.
Two recently published books, one non-fiction and one fiction, center on that search in different ways.
Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew, by retired shuttle launch director Michael D. Leinback and Jonathan H. Ward, is an insider’s gripping account of the recovery operations and the deeply emotional response it prompted in those who took part.
Kathryn Schwille’s What Luck This Life, This Life is a lyrical exploration of the disaster’s surprising fallout for residents of a fictional town overwhelmed by the trauma, while beset by the everyday tensions of family, livelihood, race and missed opportunity.