So many of the people in Russia that were injured from shattering glass had gone to nearby windows to see what had made such a bright light. The delay of the sonic boom caused the windows to shatter, injuring many people. I recalled a book I made documenting my 1968 experience (perhaps one of the 1968 Tau or Sigma Capricornids?) and remembered that I had even mentioned the sonic boom it made afterward. It made me wonder just how delayed these sonic booms are and made reference to my personal record of it.
The history of my family is that I was raised in a house which my grandfather had built and my father was born in. He and his two much older sisters were raised there. His eldest sister, Esther, married and built a house next to it.My father, after moving to Washington DC, marrying my mother and being laid off from the FBI, returned to this home. I was two when my grandmother gave us her home and moved next door to live with Esther and her family.
The neighborhood kids I grew up with first were mostly family. My cousins Kathryn, Becky and Nancy were all older than me. With my father being much younger than Esther, her firstborn, Kathryn, was not more than a decade younger than he was. I always saw Kathryn and Becky as very grown up and sophisticated. Nancy was the closest to my age being just 3 years my elder. My sister Tracy was born just before I turned three.Our families spent a lot of time together, in each other’s homes and shared back yards. No fence separated what was a grand grassy yard that was great for games of kickball, badminton, hide and seek and tag. With the matriarch, Grammy to me, living in Esther’s home there was plenty of reason for extended family to frequently visit too.
July 2, 1968
It was just at sunset that warm Tuesday evening that my Aunt Esther started watering her vegetable garden. I stood with her chatting for at least 10 minutes, probably catching lightning bugs as we shared an amicable moment. I wonder now if we were talking about any upcoming Fourth of July plans because our families shared not only a common backyard but many group picnics. Fourth of July would have been one of those dates that would bring even more family together with at least 8 cousins gamboling around the grassy lawn and popping in and out of the two neighboring Lukens’ homesteads.
My exact memory of the moment the meteor came over was that I was standing to the right of my Aunt Esther. She was sticking her thumb in the end of the hose to make it spray a mist onto the garden when a ball of fiery light streaked from East to West, in the sky just North above us.
Aunt Esther gave out a small gasp/scream which seemed to set me on alert that what I saw was dangerous, scary or unusual. I ran directly toward her back porch and door that lead into her kitchen. I can remember my feet pounding on the poured cement sidewalk as fast as I could go. Our house was farther away so I was making a beeline to safety, their back porch light held my focus.
I don’t remember my younger sister standing on the small cement porch but I trust all of the chronology and details of my illustration in the book to be true. I must have asked if she had seen it before bolting into their kitchen.
Nancy was there and I remember exclaiming to her and then Becky came in to hear what was going on. I cannot remember some details that the drawings and my Mom’s memory bring to light. I think the girls were all doing their hair because I know the drawing of Nancy walking me home has curlers in her hair. She would have been eight and a half years old.Nancy took me from her back porch to ours exiting and entering through back doors and kitchens, our houses were built-in similar layout. Mom and Kathryn were in our kitchen, Mom can remember that she was cutting Kathryn’s hair. It was then that my book depicts that the sonic boom occurred and I am amazed at how much happened from the time I saw the meteor to when we heard the noise. Again, I trust the occurrence of the chronology, I would have remember it clearly because I made the book that same night.
I can remember burying my face onto the kitchen chair to hide my crying face. I am not sure why I always felt it was better not to cry and was ashamed to be seen crying.
Our kitchen was small and the oven/stove was an old white gas stove. I hid my face on the chair closest to the oven and near the wall. The wall and oven would be replaced four summers later when Hurricane Agnes devastated central Pennsylvania (more can be read on that era on my Loss of Childhood Innocence post).
I do remember watching a science fiction movie on our console television. I thought it was ironic how I was watching a spooky movie about space after I had just been frightened by something in the night sky. It must have been during that show when my Aunt Esther came over. She wanted to apologize for scaring me when she screamed. She had thought it was the light “heat lightning” and was frightened that she might get shocked and dropped the hose in alarm.
All of the chatter of the meteor was brought up again and again that evening. I think I needed to process it completely and whether I decided or was encouraged to write the book, I am not certain. My father came home as I was wrapping up the finally pages and illustrations as I knelt at our coffee table near a Aunt Esther. I worked with ball point pens, graphite pencils and colored pencils. I was allowed to bind it with a stapler.
Finally Aunt Esther had to go “over home.” I gave her credit in my book, it really was her adventure as well as mine. It must have been well past 10PM when I finally made it upstairs to bed.
I am still very proud of my book and happy no one ever wanted to throw it away. It documented such a unique moment and I felt it was worth sharing.