Shuttle Crash Hits Close To Home For One East Texan

A Tyler woman whose son is a NASA astronaut was struck particularly hard by Saturday's tragedy.

Billie Ruether says her son, astronaut James Reilly, lost seven colleagues in the disaster. Reilly worked closely with Shuttle Commander Rick Husband, Michael Anderson and Kalpana Chawla.

"They are all very close because they were all inducted into NASA at the same time," says Ruethers. David Brown, Laurel Clark, William McCool and Israelite Ilan Ramon were also onboard.

Ruether's son was especially close to Michael Anderson. The two men worked as mission specialists on shuttle Endeavor in 1998. Ruether revisited video footage of their journey earlier today.

"He was closer to Michael Anderson because they were on the same flight," she says. They spent nine days in space, and you really get to know a person well in tight quarters."

Ruether remembers meeting Anderson at a family dinner the night before her son's launch.

"He was just a warm friendly individual," she recalls. "He seemed to have a good sense of humor."

Footage of her son's 1998 landing put the tragedy into perspective. She remembers Endeavor's landing being smooth and flawless...Michael Anderson was safely buckled in next to her son.

"When people first learn our son is an astronaut they always ask are you nervous and scared when he goes up," she says. "I have to say, 'No, I'm not because this is something he wanted to do, he worked hard and is happy doing it. Accidents happen everywhere."