It happened early Saturday morning.
“I was shocked. I woke up to watch cartoons but all I saw was these pictures of objects falling through the sky – I didn’t know what was going on,” freshman Melissa Soule said.
“I was sleeping when my mom called and woke me up,” sophomore Sarah Hunts said. “She told me to turn on the TV and there it was.”
“I was shocked when I heard the news,” sophomore Kristy Curtis said. “At first I was really worried that it had been terrorism or something.”
“I hope that this doesn’t end the whole space program because it is so amazing,” Curtis said.
For many, the Columbia tragedy stirred up memories of the Challenger Expedition disaster on Jan. 28, 1986.
“I was only five years old when it happened, so I don’t remember the Challenger, but my mom was almost in tears because it brought back so many memories,” junior Tim Wheaton said. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience this twice.”
“I remember the Challenger; it was such a heart-wrenching time,” Mary Ann Stein, a Coral Gables resident, said. “I think that it’s harder now though, just because it brings up all of the old memories.”
On board the space shuttle Columbia were seven crew-members.
Commander Rick Husband was married and a father of two. He had wanted to be an astronaut since he was in fourth grade.
Pilot William McCool was married and had three children. He described his first trip into space as “beyond imagination.”
Payload commander Michael Anderson was married and had two children. He was proud to be one of only a handful of black astronauts.
A former circus performer and gymnast, Mission Specialist David Brown told his parents how beautiful the earth is from space, comparing it to an IMAX movie.
Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-born woman in space, had dreamed of going to the moon since she was a little girl.
Mission Specialist Laurel Clark was married and a mother of two. In a recent radio interview from Columbia she discussed the beauty of life, calling it a “magical thing.”
Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, was married and had four children. With him, he had brought a drawing by a 14-year-old boy who had died in a Nazi concentration camp. The picture was of Earth as the boy had imagined it would be from space.
“I can’t imagine what the families must be feeling,” freshman Ken White said. “They were waiting at the space center for them to land. Then they heard the news.”
“I was listening to the radio and Power 96 has decided not to have DJs this weekend – they said it’s because they don’t feel right laughing and having fun,” White continued. “I think that’s really cool – you know, it shows how many people have been affected.”
For some students, their childhood dreams of being an astronaut take on a whole new meaning.
“I remember when I was little I wanted to be an astronaut,” Wheaton said. “I thought it would be cool to walk on the moon or something. This just makes me realize that it is so much more than that.”
As the investigation into this tragedy continues, people should be reminded to try to look toward the future in a positive manner.
“As bad as it may sound, I’m glad that they got to go to space,” freshman Joseph Lakes said. “So many people dream of being an astronaut, and their dreams actually came true.
“It must have been beautiful to see the world from space.”
Leigha Taber can be contacted at email@example.com.