Nacogdoches rededicates trees for those lost during Columbia disaster

Nacogdoches rededicates trees for those lost during Columbia disaster
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 8:08 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Like many other tragedies that hit our nation, everybody can remember where they where they were when the space shuttle Columbia ended in disaster.

“We were about to go into a basketball game and my son and my wife and I watched the sky here in horror as we watched the shuttle explode and streak across the sky,” Nacogdoches Mayor Jimmy Mize said.

And after the tragedy, everyone came together to lead the largest search in not only Texas history, but in U.S. history, to find the seven people aboard that died over the skies over Texas.

“Everybody was mobilized,” Bill Oates, Associate Director for Texas A&M Forest Service said. “People got mobilized. Law enforcement, fire departments. They were all mobilized.”

The mission became to find their bodies, and lay them to rest. Jamie Sowell, Forest Fire Management Officer, recollected hearing when the last person was found.

“And then just that radio call,” Sowell said. “‘We got him.’ It’s like you get to that point and what do you do now.”

Now, they remember the lives that were lost during the tragedy. But the lives of Charles Krenek and Jules “Buzz” Mier Jr., who died in an helicopter crash while searching for the astronauts.

“In addition to rededicating the trees that were planted in ‘03, we’re going to dedicate two new trees for the two other folks that lost their lives in this disaster,” Oates said.

The trees are at Banita Creek Park, as well as a new plaque about the disaster. Donna Shafer of NASA said there’s no better way to honor the men who gave everything to find the astronauts.

“Having trees dedicated to these individuals who literally put down their lives to help our agency, our nation, our country,” Shafer said. “It’s the ultimate sacrifice.”

The son of Krenek, Mark Krenek, says having somewhere to share the memory of his father with his sons is a

“It’s a real honor for them to recognize my father,” Krenek said. “It means a lot. It’s a place I can bring my two boys that never got to meet him.”