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Hemphill, Texas, honors the Columbia crew and its legacy

Columbia astronauts.jpg

Events marking the 10th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster are being held across East Texas. Three days of events are under way in Hemphill, Texas. Belinda Gay, president of the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee, said Columbia is part of the fabric of her life. She was a volunteer searcher for wreckage and a meal coordinator for thousands of recovery workers who descended on her town. She said the Columbia disaster brought the space program into focus for her.

"We all knew that the space shuttles were going up. But, it had become so routine. Now, the whole world is more in tune to what NASA's doing and what they're not doing."

A NASA town hall meeting will be held Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. at Hemphill First Baptist Church Family Life Center. The speakers will include the director of the Johnson Space Center and veteran astronaut Ellen Ochoa. She will be accompanied by two fellow astronauts. Gay anticipates that Hemphill will fill up with out-of-town visitors.

"The response has been really great. We've had a lot of people calling, lots of volunteers who were here during that time are coming back to be a part of the program and share in these events."

A 10th anniversary memorial program will be held Feb. 1 at 7:30 a.m.at the church. Gay said the town’s NASA Columbia museum will be gathering oral histories. The videotaped memories will be part of its archive. This year’s theme is The Legacy Lives On: Remembering Columbia.