Lakecaster Online

NASA honors our Heroes
By Patty Lenderman

February 1, 2004 marked the anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia. It exploded across our Texas skies and the debris scattered for hundreds of miles. We lost seven astronauts and two recovery crew members. Members of NASA, family members of our fallen heroes and citizens who helped in every aspect of the recovery mission came to the commemoration at the VFW hall in Hemphill, TX. There was standing room only, with overflow into the parking lot of those who came to honor them. Bagpipes were played as each one of our heroes were honored.

Very early in the recovery stage the mission was turned over to the FBI. Our communities, our country came together and united in the effort to recover every astronaut and each piece of the shuttle. Over 25,000 volunteers from across the country spent months searching for each piece. The search was done in reverence, in soft tones and whispers as we prayed that they would all be recovered. Our prayers were answered as volunteers walked hundreds of miles of forests, pastures, roads and yards. They endured weather conditions, thick underbrush, animals wild and domestic to recover all that was possible.

Piers Sellers of NASA spoke and said "The local community moved mountains in this effort. I have never encountered such kindness, hospitality, graciousness and understanding. The community came together not only to help search, but also fed and housed many of the volunteers. How can you tell what is valuable? Usually, it is the price one is willing to pay for something. Freedom is very expensive. Knowledge is very valuable and vital. NASA is committed to finding out what is out there. Life? Intelligence? Resources? The price for this knowledge is very high. We are only at the infant stage of space exploration. We are just starting to walk. Sometimes we fall, but we must stand up and walk again."

Many other speakers spoke of the magnificence of the effort that was put forth. They saw the best that America has to offer in the citizens and communities that respectfully offered their services in this tragedy. The selfless acts of kindness of the human spirit was overwhelming. Although these volunteers will never be publicly recognized, the whole nation is grateful for their efforts.

We were also reminded that we need to remember, too, the successes of the mission. The scientific research that was done during the mission is just part of the success the astronauts accomplished. Each member of the space program knowingly undertakes tremendous personal risk. NASA continues to attract the best and the brightest to the Space Program. It is important for the space exploration programs to continue.

Representative Turner has passed a bill to allocate funds to place memorials at each site that the astronauts were recovered. The loss of our seven astronauts and two volunteers is a tragic one, but it united and brought out the best in us. To the families of our fallen, your family is our family. Your loss is our loss. We will always remember.

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