Shuttle debris hazardous

"Mark my words, debris will appear for sale on EBay."


"Mark my words, debris will appear for sale on EBay," predicted Joann Hale of Church World Service the afternoon after the shuttle crash.

And Hale was right: the online auction site deleted several items billed as shuttle debris, warning that anyone attempting to sell fragments from the doomed shuttle could be prosecuted.

Executives may report the sellers to federal authorities.

The EBay incidents exemplify how the public is riveted on both the physical debris from the shuttle crash and the emotional fallout as well.

Television and radio stations offering continuous coverage over the weekend, many reverting to lengthy "person on the street'" interviews that offered a sketch of people's feelings.

While families of the astronauts are being cared for by NASA officials at this point, the rest of the nation has been left to mourn the best ways it knows how.

At church services and other gatherings across the nation Sunday, people talked over what it means to mourn in the wake of already shaken national security.

In an echo of Sept. 11, 2001 television footage, many watched the footage of the shuttle explosion a white streak across the sky repeatedly. Psychologists warned that watching too much footage could increase emotional stress in people, particularly children.

Meanwhile cleanup continued as people continued to find potentially hazardous debris and human remains over parts of Texas and Louisiana Sunday.

Cleanup was turned over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the Department of Homeland Security ruled out a terrorist attack. The Environmental Protection Agency was assisting, as were U.S. Army troops.

NASA told residents in the area they should be aware that any debris found in the area could be hazardous, and to avoid contact with it. People were warned to stay 100 yards away from debris.

Disaster response personnel from Church World Service (CWS) were making contact with local emergency management officials, who were investigating an apartment fire in Plano, Texas that may or may not be associated with falling debris.

Hale, a specialist in technological disasters who represents both the United Church of Christ and CWS, urged residents to obey NASA's instructions to stay away from the debris.

Contamination, Hale said, could spread from the debris to the soil. "If it hit my apartment, for example, I wouldn't go back in there. I would want my furniture, clothing and carpeting cleaned."

Cleanup itself will be a logistical challenge, she predicted. "Where are they going to gather all of it? How are they going to dispose of all this stuff?"

The Texas division of The Salvation Army deployed multiple disaster response units to assist emergency workers collecting debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Salvation Army personnel are prepared to remain on site as long as the canteens are needed. Additional canteens and personnel are on standby across the state, ready to be deployed as necessary. Services being offered at all locations include food, drink and spiritual counseling.

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Related Links:

• A compilation of resources relating to the Challenger accident.: Federation of American Scientists: Space Policy Project

CBS News Summary of Space Shuttle Mission


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