SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Sixty-two years ago today one of the most famous events in Alabama history took place right here in our own back yard.
On Nov. 30, 1954, a meteor tore through the roof of a home in what is now Oak Grove, bounced off of a radio, and hit a woman. Ann Hodges, the victim, was said to be sleeping on her couch in the early afternoon when it crashed through her roof and hit her arm and leg. On that day, Hodges became the first person ever in recorded history to be hit by a meteorite.
The rock that hit Hodges weighed eight and a half pounds and measured around seven inches in length.
Hodges was taken to a doctor’s office for examination. Although Hodges’ hip was severely bruised, an X-ray showed that there was no serious damage.
Today we have the benefit of knowing that it was just a meteorite that made it through Earth’s atmosphere. But in the midst of the Cold War between the United States and Russia, people were scared it might be something else.
On that day, fear spread throughout parts of the southeast. Reports of fire falling from the sky, mushroom shaped clouds, aerial explosions that sounded like thunder, plane crashes, UFO sightings, and more were made by people from Georgia, Alabama, and into parts of Mississippi. One report was from a pilot who said he saw a blast 60,000 feet over the city of Montgomery. Those reports would lead to a full scale investigation into an unidentified flying object by the United States government.
A search for crashed aircraft would ensue in the small town of Sylacauga. That day nearly 40 aircraft circled over the city for a long period of time in search of some form of wreckage.
Once news spread that a rock crashed through Hodges’ house, it was quickly taken by the United States Air Force in order to find its origin. Even though geologist George Swindel examined it on scene and declared that it was in fact a meteorite, the rock made its way to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio where it was tested by guided missile experts. They determined it was not a weapon. The object was eventually determined to be a meteorite by government officials.
After all of the tests, the meteorite would eventually be returned to Ann Hodges. Today the famous “Hodges Meteorite” is displayed at the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Smith Hall at the University of Alabama. Another piece of the meteorite was found one day after it plowed into Earth on a dirt road in Sylacauga. That piece of the meteorite is displayed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.
Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2016, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.