Chartered planes have brought new searchers for the bits and pieces of the Columbia shuttle scattered in the scrub and woods of East Texas. Some 600 Type-II fire incidents crews from Montana, North Dakota and Northern Idaho will replace National Guard crews and law enforcement officers being called to other duties.
About half of the 600 are Indians — Native Americans for the P.C. — who jumped at the chance for $11.22 an hour from reservations where unemployment runs at 60 percent. They hail from places like the Crow Reservation and the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, in Montana. Says one BIA spokesperson, “The crews are tough, really tough.”
Motels and hotels are filled, and they’ll live for the most part on the ground, in fire camp settings. For 12 hours a day they’ll walk precise grid patterns 10 feet apart, looking for the remaining pieces of wreckage, the same search patterns used to detect embers once a fire has been conquered. In many ways this is easy duty for the Type-II’s, who fight forest fires on high mountain slopes, climbing with 60-pound packs and wielding picks and shovels.
There is a hope, flickering, tiny, almost unmentionable, of one impossible find: the miniature Torah carried on the flight by the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon. Ramon had gotten it from an Israeli scientist, Joachim Joseph, with whom he had collaborated on some experiments to be performed on the shuttle flight. It was used in Joseph’s bar mitzvah performed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March, 1944. The rabbi who performed the rite gave it to Joseph who in turn gave it to Ramon to take with him on the shuttle mission. Ramon displayed the little four and a half inch scroll during one of the televised conferences from the shuttle in orbit.
Odds are, the tiny scroll did not survive the re-entry, as the seven astronauts did not.
But then, the odds were against Joachim Joseph’s survival, and Ramon’s own mother’s survival from Auschwitz. Could it be that, say, Randy Firemoon of Poplar, MT, will spot some tiny fragment in the underbrush of East Texas? Or Weaver Beartusk, of Lame Deer? Would there not be some magic affirmation in such a serendipitus success?