Most of you are very familiar with what happened to the space shuttle Columbia. On Saturday, February 1st, the shuttle was at the end of a 16-day mission that involved dozens of science experiments. Columbia was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 8:16 a.m. Central Time. But shortly before 8 a.m., Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston lost contact with the shuttle. Moments later, thousands of people here in East Texas heard – and in many cases felt – the shuttle as it passed overhead. Within minutes, debris from the shuttle began to rain down all across East Texas, and people all over the world got the same sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs that many of us got 17 years ago as we watched the Challenger explode.
All seven astronauts aboard the Columbia – six Americans and an Israeli – were killed.
It has been an extraordinarily difficult and challenging time for everyone here in East Texas. Our motto here is "Proud Of East Texas." Throughout the Columbia investigation, we have been just that. Granted, we have seen the ugly side of humanity from time to time – some people hindering the investigation by keeping pieces of the shuttle, others trying to profit from the tragedy. But we have seen a whole lot more about what is right and good among us.
This edition of Inside East Texas took a look at how that investigation is going, and talk with some of the people who are involved with the recovery efforts here in East Texas. Bob Hurst is the Emergency Management Director for Nacogdoches County, where much of the debris from Columbia fell, and Dr. James Kroll is from the Forest Research Institute at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
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Bob Hurst, Emergency Management Director, Nacogdoches County