Dr. Ciampi’s Meteorite Strike

25 01 2010


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I’m Audie Cornish.

Coming up, a young piano master finds out about her Grammy nomination on Facebook.

But first, you hear about these things happening and wonder if they ever really do. Well, last Monday, around 5:30 P.M., a half-pound meteor travelling about 220 miles an hour crashed through the office of Dr. Frank Ciampi. Dr. Ciampi has a family practice in Lorton, Virginia and he joins us now on the line.

Dr. Ciampi, welcome.

Dr. FRANK CIAMPI (Physician, Family Practice): Hi. Hi, Audie. How are you?

CORNISH: So, tell me about this. What happened?

Dr. CIAMPI: We heard this loud booming crash. And then, as I looked to my left, I saw this debris in the hallway. You know, there was a lot of debris everywhere.

CORNISH: So luckily, there were no patients nearby.

Dr. CIAMPI: There were no patients. We used the room all day long and it was amazing. Up until 10 minutes prior to that, there was somebody in there pretty much the whole day.

CORNISH: Did you suspect at first that it was a meteor?

Dr. CIAMPI: No way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CIAMPI: My partner and I looked at it and we thought something fell from like an airplane.

CORNISH: So unlike the comic books, it wasnt seeping some nebulous fluid that changed form or like a super hero didnt pop out of it.

Dr. CIAMPI: Thank God. And it wasnt warm either when you touched it.

CORNISH: Oh, okay.

Dr. CIAMPI: It was pretty cool. You know, to take it a few steps forward, well, as we were looking at it the following morning, we see that it’s charred on the outside and its kind of dense on the inside. And we called up our office manager’s husband whos majored in geology in college. And he came right over and he confirmed that it was a meteorite. And we immediately decided that we needed to call up the Smithsonian.

CORNISH: Did he tell you what about the look of it confirmed for him that it was a meteor?

Dr. CIAMPI: Yes. Well, he asked us a few things on the phone. He said is it, you know, is it dark on the outside. We said yes, it is. It’s pretty dense. Are there flecks of metal in there? And then we said they were. And he said try to use a magnet and is it magnetic? And we said it is. So he got really excited after he found out it was magnetic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CIAMPI: He came right over. And in the interim, the Fairfax County Police came and they were excited too. At first they didnt think it was a big deal but when they looked at it they got excited also. And actually, the Fairfax County Police are the ones that called the news reporters. We didnt call them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CIAMPI: And then all hell broke loose. And when I called the Smithsonian that morning, they were kind of like, well, we get five of these a week. Most of them are nothing. But when they saw it they got excited also, so that’s when things started heating up.

CORNISH: Now I imagine a rock like that would be worth a lot of money and I’m wondering if youre getting offers for it.

Dr. CIAMPI: No. Well, yeah. We are. We did get offers but everything, you know, we donated it to the Smithsonian. And if any money comes through the Smithsonian, it’s going to be donated to Haiti and Doctors, you know, Without Borders.

CORNISH: So does insurance cover a hole in your roof – a hole produced by a meteorite?

Dr. CIAMPI: I assume it does. It’s an act of God. I assume it does. But the landlord is dealing with that. And actually, the damage wasnt too bad in the roof. I mean it really – it was just a small hole. They just replaced that area and a few shingles, and so it looks pretty good now.

CORNISH: Now the experts tell us that the odds of actually having meteor comes steaming through your roof are something like a trillion to one.

Dr. CIAMPI: Oh, really? I thought it was a billion to one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CIAMPI: So it’s a trillion to one. Wow.

CORNISH: Youre still in pretty special company.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CIAMPI: A patient of mine yesterday, she did some statistics on the computer and she came up with a billion to one. That’s what I’ve been telling everybody when they interview me, but I guess I was wrong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORNISH: Dr. Frank Ciampi in Lorton, Virginia, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Dr. CIAMPI: Youre welcome. Thank you.

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