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he odds of being struck by lightning are one in 700,000 and there have been quite a few cases in history reported of people being struck by lightning. Now imagine just how unlikely it would be to get struck by a meteorite, well we can estimate with certainty that it is one in 3,000,000,000. That one is represented by Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges who was unlucky enough to be the first human (known) to be struck by a meteorite.

An unexpected visit

This event took place on the 30th of November, 1954. It was another normal day in Alabama Sylacauga and only four days had passed since thanksgiving. In the afternoon, Ann wanted to have a rest before getting on with the rest of her day, so she decided to sit on the sofa for a few moments (talking about timing). At exactly 12:46 PM a meteorite struck through the roof of Ann’s house right where she was sitting, hitting her hip.

The meteorite left a tremendous bruise on Ann’s body however, she was lucky enough to not suffer any internal damage. When the case was reported to the police they thought it was a prank, or that someone had taken the wrong pills and started having weird visions. But to their surprise, they had another call from a person only three miles away from Ann’s house reporting a big rock falling from the sky.

Ann Hodges (center) poses with her meteorite, underneath the point where it crashed through her house, with Sylacauga, Alabama mayor Ed Howard (left) and the town’s police chief W.D. Ashcraft. Hodges was struck by the meteorite while on her couch on Nov. 30, 1954. She donated it to the University of Alabama’s Museum of Natural History in 1956. (Source: University of Alabama)

This event did not only make Ann a local celebrity in Alabama but also attracted the attention of many geologists. The first geologists who came to analyze the case say that the meteorite had split into two after entering the earth’s atmosphere, that is why there was another piece of the meteorite around three miles away from the one that struck Ann. The geologists also estimated that the meteorite could be around 4,500,000,000 years old!

Neighbors and witnesses who were near Ann’s house when the event took place said that just before the meteorite struck the house, they were able to see it. They described it as a falling star that was so bright it would blind you as if you were looking straight into the sun. Other people from the state of Alabama say that they could see a fireball coming down towards earth from miles away from where it struck, with a smoke trail behind it and a reddish light representing the fire from its rapid descend.

The locals even called over the fire department as the house was filled with smoke after the meteorite crashed on Ann. The meteorite weighed around 3.8 kilograms (8.5 lbs) and it was about thirty centimeters in diameter. The piece which hit Ann was actually sold at an auction in 2017 for $7,500.

A divine power or the enemy?

Due to this event being one of a kind, many people at the time who weren’t from Alabama did not want to believe it even with such clear evidence. Some thought that this was not a meteorite, but some sort of sign from God to show sinners that they are taking the wrong path in life. Others however thought it was the Soviet Union who sent the meteorite over to America to kill innocent people.

A closeup of the Sylacauga meteorite that hit Ann Hodges after crashing through her roof on Nov. 30, 1954. (Source: University of Alabama)

This assumption was made due to the high tensions provoked by the start of the Cold War which was mainly between the United States and the Soviet Union. Michael Reynolds who wrote Falling Stars: A Guide to Meteors and Meteorites, mentions in his book that there is a higher chance of being struck by a lightning bolt and a tornado at the same time than being hit by a meteorite.

Research done in the 1980s by Nasa states that Earth is hit by seventeen meteorites every day in very different locations, therefore we can prove to the people who still do not believe this event that it is not impossible, however, extremely unlikely. NASA also mentioned, in 2014, that with the very fast-growing population on Earth, the chances of a meteorite striking a person once again are growing day by day, as the population increases.

What is more surprising in this event is that it didn’t really become a worldwide piece of news at the time, and this is presumably because of the tension in the world brought by the Cold War, as well as all the propaganda going around the news outlets at the time.

Taking this into consideration, it would have been even more unlikely to be hit by a meteorite in the past, which means that this is truly the only case of a person being hit by a meteorite in human history, as well as the most unique event in history.

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