At 9:16 ET this morning, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida observed a minute of silence. At the same moment, the Johnson Space Center in Texas rang a bell seven times.
Why? In honor of the seven members of the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere 10 years ago today. The shuttle would have landed at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:16 a.m., February 1, 2003, if a piece of insulating foam had not punctured the left wing during liftoff on January 16. The resulting hole allowed hot gases to enter the shuttle's wing, which caused the orbiter to break up and resulted in the tragic loss of the crew.
Like the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, I vividly recall where I was the moment I learned of Columbia's loss. Even now, 10 years later, I feel sad at the memory of this terrible incident but realize my feelings are insignificant compared to the grief felt by the 12 children who lost a mother or a father that day; pale relative to the anguish experienced by the spouses, family members and friends the crew left behind.
Author Elizabeth McCracken wrote: "Grief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving." Well, for what it's worth, I offer my sympathy.
Above: The memorial in Arlington National Cemetery constructed in honor of the seven-member crew of space shuttle Columbia. Photo © Chris Raymond