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Many remember shuttle crews

People across the nation took time to mark the anniversary of the space shuttle disaster.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | February 1, 2004

From simple prayers to memorial services, people across the nation took time Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia disaster.

In small towns across Texas and other states, homemade memorials marked sites where remains of astronauts or of the shuttle were found. Many residents recalled spending hours last year helping search for debris.

Residents from several communities are organizing grassroots movements to build permanent memorials to the lost crew. The communities of Hemphill, Nacogdoches and Lufkin are planning to link their memorials together, symbolizing a stretch where debris fell.

In Sabine County, the county government has proposed a trail and museum on 10 acres of land where Columbia's nose cone was discovered.

Last year as Columbia space shuttle debris recovery and collection work continued across Texas and Louisiana under the direction of NASA with coordination from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), faith-based organizations across the piney woods of East Texas supported operations.

FEMA served as lead agency for the debris search, coordinating the search in eastern Texas and Louisiana from a Disaster Field Office in Lufkin, Tex., using personnel from 15 federal agencies and 17 state agencies.

During the early stages of the search, the Texas division of The Salvation Army and an area-wide alliance of more than 40 church denominations served as a hub for much of the community support, with church members supplying hot meals and snacks, doing laundry for the workers and housing them.

And, in addition to being remembered by many people on earth, the fallen crew of Space Shuttle Columbia now has a memorial on another planet as well.

When NASA's Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" landed on Mars Jan. 3, 2004, it brought with it a small commemorative plaque bearing the names of the seven astronauts. Spirit's landing area on Mars will now be known as the Columbia Memorial Station.

"During this time of great joy for NASA, the Mars Exploration Rover team and the entire NASA family paused to remember our lost colleagues from the Columbia mission," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said. "To venture into space, into the unknown, is a calling heard by the bravest, most dedicated individuals."

The STS-107 patch, NASA emblem and American flag are all included on the plaque. A small Israeli flag appears beside the name of Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut.

On Monday afternoon, O'Keefe will preside over a memorial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

The ceremony will be closed to all but family members but the memorial site will be open to the public after the event.

The memorial is a few feet away from another one honoring the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, lost on January 28, 1986.

The anniversaries of the Columbia, Challenger, and Apollo 1 accidents all fall within a week of each other.

O'Keefe announced this year that NASA will observe a Day of Remembrance each year on the last Thursday in January, honoring those three crews and all who have given their lives in the cause of exploration and discovery.

O'Keefe told NASA employees that the agency must learn from its tragedies "as profoundly as we do from our triumphs." He also urged employees to reflect "every single day" on the fact that "the consequences of us not getting it right are catastrophic."

During his remarks at NASA Headquarters, Administrator O'Keefe was backed by a large commemorative patch honoring the Apollo, Challenger and Columbia crews with the words, "their memory lives on, their spirit will carry us higher."

The National Football League also honored the lost crew with a pre-game tribute. Houston, where Super Bowl XXXVIII was being played Sunday, is the home base city for most of NASA's astronauts.

Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Mike Anderson and Ilan Ramon lost their lives when the shuttle blew apart. Husband and McCool grew up in Texas.


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