Today, the Alabama State Quarter Coin remembers the meteorite that struck a person in Sylacauga, Alabama on November 30, 1954.
From the next day’s [Florence, AL] Times Daily:
“It looked as though it hit somewhere around Leighton,” he said.
“Why, the thing was as bright as day, and I could have sworn it fell within 15 or 20 miles of here at least.”
Mose Stewart of Sheffield was speaking of the exploding meteor which streaked across the sky Tuesday afternoon and bits of it smashed to earth in Sylacauga. This was around 175 air miles away.
But it certainly didn’t look that far. “No sir,” declared Mr. Stewart, “it was flaming red and as big as all get out. It appeared as though it fell Southeast of here, so I know it was the same one that hit in Central Alabama. But it sure surprised me to find out that it was that far away.”
Mr. Stewart, a TVA employee, said he was watching a crane in operation around one o’clock yesterday afternoon when the meteor streaked across his line of vision.
“The sun was shining bright,” he said, “but there was no mistaking it. The thing was a brilliant color and there was a long white stream of misty vapor flowing from it.”
“I’ve seen plenty of meteors and shooting stars at night,” he said, “but this is the first time I’ve ever noticed one in the daytime. I just knew it had to hit close by.”
Geologists still haven’t found the object. They’re looking in Central Alabama, around the Talladega-Sylacauga area.
Actually, they’re not certain that they will. Some believe that the meteor exploded high in the heavens and only fragments of it hit the earth.
Mrs. Hewlett Hodges, a Sylacauga housewife, was struck with a nine-pound chunk of the stone, which was identified as a sulphide meteorite by George Swindle, field representative of the U. S. Geological survey.
There is a possibility, geologists said, that some of the fragments could have flown off in the direction of the Muscle Shoals area, but they’re a bit skeptical of this.
“Yes,” they admitted today, “there is always this possibility when there’s a celestial disturbance in mid-air, but it’s pretty remote.”
Fact is, it’s pretty remote when someone is struck by one, too. Mrs. Hodges is believed to be the first person in history ever to be struck by a meteorite.
The “flash” was just as bright to observers in Atlanta, Columbus and Newnan, GA and Greenville, MS, as it was here.
C. C. Landers, a country store operator near Sylacauga, said the meteor was blown apart by “three separate explosions.”
The piece of meteorite that struck Mrs. Hodges measured about six inches in diameter and weighed approximately nine pounds. The inside consisted of a metallic, grey granular substance, which responded to tests given for sulphide. The outside coating was a black satin appearing substance.
The largest recorded meteorite fell February 17, 1930, 14 miles southwest of Paragould, AR, splitting into fragments, one 820 pounds and another 80 pounds.
Though Mrs. Hodges may be the only person actually struck by a meteorite, there have been several people killed as a direct result of such occurrences. One of the most startling was the fall of a mass of iron at Braunau, Bohemia on July 14, 1847, which crashed through a roof and covered a bed where three children were sleeping with debris.
Authorities at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery are examining the strange object. This, however, didn’t set too well with Mrs. Hodges’ husband, a tree surgeon. He’s irate.
“It’s not theirs,” he demanded, “what did he mean taking it away?”
The Alabama State Quarter Coin shows with an image of a meteorite falling at night.