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Susanna Space

What Falls to Earth

Illustration by Cristina Daura

Susanna Space | Longreads | January 2019 | 13 minutes (3,200 words)

On June 30, 1908, a star-like body with a fiery tail tore through the clear morning sky above the vast Siberian forest. As it neared the ground, a column of light shot twelve miles into the air. Booms like artillery followed, and stones rained from the sky; houses shook and windows shattered. A wave of intense heat threw people from their chairs. Hundreds of reindeer scattered and burned.

I came upon the story of the Tunguska meteor by accident. It was 2014 and I had watched a documentary about Russian girls, children of 12 and 13, sent abroad by American modeling agents to work. The film made me curious about the girls’ home in the Siberian countryside, a backdrop they were eager to shed.

My interest in the girls receded as I read about the meteor. I was online, trying to learn more about Siberia when links to articles popped up about a similar event, this one a century later and 3,500 miles away in Chelyabinsk. A meteor had exploded over the city one February morning, the flash recorded by hundreds of smartphones and dashboard cameras.
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