Columbia Anniversary Marked With Memorials - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/01/04-East Texas

Columbia Anniversary Marked With Memorials

East Texas awoke to clear, crisp skies today. Much the same as one year ago before a tragic event would change the lives of thousands of East Texans forever. Today, in communities throughout East Texas, that fateful day was remembered.

San Augustine was one of many cities that turned into a sort of epicenter of the Columbia tragedy. Today flags were lowered to half staff, and a memorial honoring the 7 astronauts lost was dedicated.

In Nacogdoches a solemn observance was held at the site where one of the first shuttle pieces was found. Many who participated in the recovery effort were on hand to talk about their experiences, none more touching than astronaut Greg Johnson.

"I saw a mechanical part in front of a small home and next to the part was an American flag and a rose and a small sign that said 'We will remember Columbia.', that gave me the strength to continue onto Hemphill and look for the crew remains."

In Hemphill, hundreds gathered to reflect on the lives lost in the disaster. John Clark was one of those people. His wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, was one of those who died in the crash. He passed up other services and even tickets to the Superbowl to be with who he calls his adopted family.

"To me coming back to East Texas is like coming home. This is where the crew came home and this is where I wanted to be on this very special day."

The memorials dedicated today insure one thing, the memory of those 7 astronauts lost will live on forever.

Chris Gibson, reporting

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