For most people traveling Big Daddy's Road the field just down from the Northeast Fire Station looks no different than any of the many others lining the road.

Bruce Thomas Jr. sees something different -- the night of Jan. 23-24, 1961, when the sky appeared to be on fire.

Thomas was 17 when a B-52 from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base broke up in midair before crashing in flames scattering parts and two nearly megaton hydrogen bombs in the field 56 years ago today.

Tuesday Thomas was at the site with Earl Smith, who as a 24-year-old airman at the time of the crash and was one of the first to arrive after the crash.

Smith defused one of the two bombs.

Thomas' house was just across the woods from the crash site.

"I remember waking up when the explosion," he said. "My bedroom was green wallpaper, and when I opened my eyes it was red from the explosion. Then the fire whistle went off. Daddy was on the fire department.

"We got the fire truck came here and parked right over there (on Big Daddy's Road). It (plane) was sitting out here burning, the jet fuel. It was the onlyest looking sight you have ever seen burning. Standing right there I could see the pilot (in the cockpit), and he was dead. I could see the plane burning around him."

All they could do is stand and watch it burn, he said.

Shortly thereafter base official including Smith arrived.

Thomas said firefighters had no idea nuclear weapons were involved until base officials told them.

"We probably would have took off if we had known," he said. "I was amazed. I had no idea."

But Thomas said finding out about the bombs didn't scare them any more.

"Back then, I didn't even think about it and how deadly it would have been if it had gone off," he said. "Every time I come by this road I think about that plane sitting there burning. It never fails. When I come by I just automatically think about it."

Thomas said he sees the pilot more than all of the debris that was scattered across the area.

"I can still stand here and see him in that plane," Thomas said.

He recalls seeing one bomb hanging by its parachute in a nearby tree that is no longer there.

The fire was so intense that it scorched the side of a house that used to stand near the road.

He also remembers the pit or canyon as he calls it dug in an attempt to recover all of the parts of a second bomb tat buried itself in the ground.

Some of the parts remain buried in the field.