By Mike Schneider
The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - In the shadow of a tall granite memorial honoring astronauts killed in the line of duty, grieving visitors gathered Sunday to pay tribute to the crew of the Columbia with flowers, candles and tears.
Some stood quietly before the 51-foot high, 43-foot wide Space Mirror Memorial, which was built after the 1986 Challenger disaster. Others adorned a white fence in front of it with roses, daises, lilacs and tulips.
"May all your dreams continue," read a card on one bouquet of flowers.
On a T-shirt with the NASA fire rescue emblem, a handwritten note said: "Our tears are not only those of sorrow but also tears of pride. You will never be forgotten."
Sheryl Donan, 38, knelt with her two sons, Daniel, 3, and Damon, 2, in front of the memorial.
"It's good to grieve with others," Donan said. "I feel isolated at home, like you're all alone."
Impromptu memorials - many of them at space museums - came together in other parts of the country Sunday as Americans paid respects to the fallen astronauts.
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the NASA sign was partly obscured by flowers, teddy bears, candles and American flags. Handwritten notes saluted the Columbia crew.
"From Karnal to Canaveral, Kalpana, you came a long way. You will be remembered deeply and dearly by all," read one sign to Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian-born woman in space.
An Israeli flag and four balloons - blue and white, the colors of the flag - draped over a hedge in memory of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space.
A note written in a child's handwriting addressed to Commander Rick Husband said simply, "We'll miss you."
A 3-by-3 piece of debris from the shuttle that fell in Nacogdoches, Texas, also turned into a memorial as residents laid down flowers, including seven pink roses.
Attendance was up at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., as visitors paid tribute with flowers and candles.
A copy of the Jewish holy book, the Torah, and handwritten notes accompanied the bouquets. One praised the crew for making the "ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of knowledge."
Many came to have their picture taken besides a 12-foot-tall model of the Columbia, sign a condolence book and "connect in a tangible way" with the tragedy, spokeswoman Claire Brown said.
"It kind of reminds you of how human everything is," said Frank Lanky, 18, a college student at Catholic University. "Yesterday reminded everybody how out of our hands it all is."
In Hawaii, staff members at the Onizuka Space Center at Kona International Airport set up a small memorial with flowers and a photograph of the Columbia's crew. Nancy Tashima, the center's curator, said the museum was seeing an influx of visitors, including Claude Onizuka, whose brother, Ellison, died in the Challenger explosion.
"It kind of reopened the wound again," Onizuka said from his home in Kona.
Mourners in Peoria, Ariz., left flowers at the Challenger Space Center, and a Vietnam veteran left his Purple Heart.
"They need it more than I do," former U.S. Marine Kristen Abbott told the Arizona Republic.
Outside William Horlick High School in Racine, Wis., mourners paid tribute to astronaut Laurel Clark - who graduated from the school - with notes and flags.
Flowers and a poster of the Columbia crew also adorned the lobby of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan.
Visitors at the Science Center of Iowa used markers Saturday to add their thoughts on the disaster to a banner used as a tribute to the astronauts.
"You're in my heart and prayers," one person wrote. "May God be with you," and "Thank you. You will not be forgotten," others wrote.
(Complete Columbia coverage at Cincinnati.com)
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