At Lake Toledo Bend along the Texas-Louisiana border that Saturday, the bass fishermen got an early start, eager for the prize money from the Bass N' Bucks tournament.
The fog lay like smoke across the lake. Competing boats were no more than muffled shadows.
When the wreckage started falling through the mist, the fishermen were terrified.
They heard the singing noise of shrapnel ripping the air. They heard the splashes as it hit the water. They felt the ripples rock their boats.
Columbia rained down around them.
It was a long, troubled summer.
War continued in such faraway places as Fallouja and Kabul. A heat wave gripped Europe and killed thousands of people. North America's worst power blackout darkened cities across the United States and Canada.
On Aug. 26 — seven months after Columbia fell from the sky — the independent Accident Investigation Board released its final report.
So open had the board been all along that its final report contained no surprises.
Without reservation, the board members agreed: It was the foam. They fixed blame squarely on NASA's complacent management.
In all, 11 managers involved in the ill-fated mission were demoted or reassigned. A few took early retirement.
Investigation board members returned to their families and careers, leaving NASA to fix its own problems.
As summer drifted into autumn, the space agency pledged to reform itself and began planning to return the three remaining shuttles to space, perhaps by next September.
Nothing could be done to make the wings stronger or to stop debris from striking the spacecraft.
Engineers worked on a repair kit that astronauts could use in orbit. They installed extra sensors in the wings to detect damage more readily. NASA managers vowed a renewed commitment to safety.
The world was moving on.
In October, technicians at the Kennedy Space Center packed away the 83,900 pieces of wreckage. They stored them on the 16th floor of the Vehicle Assembly Building — the same building where the next shuttle was being readied for launch.
A mystery can transform those who pursue it. The people involved in the Columbia inquest may never be free of it. Memories have a life of their own. Regrets linger.
Should they start to fade, there will be reminders.
Just a few weeks ago near Chireno, Texas, a farmer feeding his cattle discovered a jagged piece of alloy about the size of a fountain pen jammed in a bale of hay.
He took it to the county sheriff, who duly sent it by overnight express to NASA.
It was another piece of Columbia.
They turn up about once a week.