Leader of Columbia Shuttle recovery talks about latest report

Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss
Nacogdoches County Sheriff Thomas Kerss
Published: Dec. 30, 2008 at 10:51 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 30, 2013 at 9:13 PM CST
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NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Sheriff Thomas Kerss is never too far from Columbia shuttle reminders. Mementos are on walls, in drawers and on book cases. Each one has a story. Kerss picks up a cap explaining, “This Dynasty cap was the team of paratroopers that came down and worked with us.” Then lifting a small yellow cap continued, “This unusual looking cap, Zaka, was from the Israelis that came over. Their search, rescue and recovery team.”

The man who was thrown into international limelight is curious about each new NASA report on Columbia, but the latest detailing the seven astronauts' death is different. "We don't want those astronauts remembered in that regard and because of that even still to this day we don't go into a lot of gruesome detail about the condition of the astronauts," said Kerss. During the recovery Kerss had grand insight to human loss and suffering through simple reminders. "There were things like a shoe, a mission patch that was obviously torn off of a sleeve of a uniform or jacket or something. A toothbrush. Some very personal items. It really did personalize that much more," shared Kerss.

Kerss prefers celebrating the life of the astronauts and remembering them through the collected memorabilia. The memories of Columbia shuttle go way beyond personal mementos. Throughout East Texas you’ll find buildings named after the shuttle, as well as streets and the memorials. According to Kerss the desire to remember through respect is the east Texas way.