By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
KENWOOD - Since early this morning, Mitchell Flatow has been wondering what to tell his kids - the 400 students at Yavneh Day School.
The Jewish students had excitedly watched the 16-day Columbia space shuttle science mission unfold with Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut in space, on board.
"We have been following it and we're devastated, obviously, for the loss of American life, as well as Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon," said Flatow, principal of the preschool-grade 8 school.
"We'll probably have some type of memorial service Monday and talk about it with the kids, obviously in an age-appropriate way."
Along with the rest of the Tristate, the Jewish community was shocked by the loss of the shuttle that broke apart before it was scheduled to land Saturday morning.
Flatow heard that NASA had lost communications with the shuttle before heading to synagogue Saturday morning. When he returned home, his fears were confirmed. The shuttle was down, with no apparent survivors.
"Like the rest of America, I'm devastated," Flatow said. "There's no words to express how I'm feeling, personally, and how Jews in the community and the entire country is feeling right now."
Ramon, a 48-year-old Israeli Air Force Colonel and former fighter pilot, had trained for years for this flight. He had fought in two wars--Yom Kippur in 1973 and Lebanon in 1982 and was involved in bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981.
Stan Chesley, an Amberley Village attorney, heard about the tragedy as he was heading to the barbershop. "It's tragic. It's tragic for America. It's tragic for Israel."
Ramon's flight into space aboard an American shuttle was cause for celebration in Israel.
"It was terribly important," Chesley said. "It's a first. It's proof of the close relationship between Israel and the United States, which is very significant at a time when there are tragedies in the Middle East and the situation with Iraq."
NASA had ordered extra security for this flight, but terrorism never crossed Chesley's mind when he heard the news. He criticized the national media for initially planting a seed of doubt.
"I think people overact," he said. When a flight falls apart at 200,000 feet, I don't know any missile that can reach 200,000 feet, not even our sophisticated missiles.
"It was a tragic accident. Something went terribly wrong."
(Complete Columbia coverage at Cincinnati.com)
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