Victims' Families Find Home In East Texas Community - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

02/01/04 - Sabine County

Victims' Families Find Home In East Texas Community

Story By Wade Cameron

Songbirds greeted the sunrise over Sabine County Sunday morning. A far cry from the sonic boom that shook buildings and changed lives one year ago. And as hundreds gathered to reflect upon the lives lost in the Columbia disaster, it was clear that this is not a community living in the shadow of a tragedy, but rather one embracing their NASA family.

"This is a very important day for us. And I wanted to be here with J.P. [Harrison, husband of astronaut Kalpana Chawla] to represent the Columbia families and tell you from the bottom of our hearts how much...how incredibly much it meant for you to be part of our families."

Clark passed on other memorial services, even tickets to the Super Bowl to be with his adopted East Texas family. He says it was an easy choice to make.

"To me coming back to East Texas is like coming home," said Clark. "This is where the crew came home and this is where I wanted to be on this very special day."

Family members of the victims say the entire community's effort during the search for debris and beyond has made Sabine county a second home for them. Residents say they would like to think other communities would do the same as they did and they were just happy to help.

"We've been here for many years and we've always felt the closeness," said Ellen Mills. "But this has been great for bringing everybody together."

"Certainly our heart goes out to all of them and to all of America because this is a national tragedy," said Steve Mills. "I'm just glad people here have been fortunate enough to be a part of the effort."

Sabine County, like other communities around East Texas, is planning to a build memorial in tribute to the crew. But on this first anniversary, perhaps the greatest tribute of all is the dedication this community has shown for welcoming their family home.

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