« Day 2 of the Small Victory Telethon | Main | Just Because... »

February 1, 2003

Remembering Columbia


I remember the Columbia and this anniversary date very well. I know a few astronauts personally, one of whom is a friend and another who is a very good friend. I was watching the Today show that Saturday morning when it was reported that Houston had lost contact with the Columbia… Ten minutes past – nothing. I called my good friend who I knew wasn’t on the mission as he was just about to start training for his third trip to space, but I wasn’t sure about my other friend.

His wife answered the phone. “Julie, it’s Hambone, are y’all watching TV?” She said, no, they were sleeping in. I told her that the Columbia was “missing” and asked to speak to her husband…

“Beamer, Charlie wasn’t on the Columbia mission was he?”
“Scorch? No, he’s CAPCOM for the mission, but Willie McCool is, know him? ’83 grad? What’s going on?”
“Beamer, I think the Columbia is… gone.” I struggled to find that last word and it still rings poorly in my head.

I wish I would have let him sleep in, as Beamer was Willie’s family’s Casualty Assistance Officer (something that the military guys started at NASA after the Challenger crash) and didn’t get much sleep that month.

Listening to the audio of that last transmission also rings in my head with Charlie’s voice:
“Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check”…
“Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check”…

Let’s hope we don’t forget these brave individuals.