Monday, February 3, 2003

America absorbs another tragedy, tries to move on



By Jill Barton
The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, made it to her scheduled appearance at a science festival. The Kennedy Space Center kept its visitor's complex open. Sporting events went on - after a moment of silence. Americans seemed determined Sunday not to let their grieving for the Columbia astronauts halt their normal lives.

"We'll pick up the torch the astronauts carried and carry it forward," Ride told 800 young girls and their parents at Sunday's science festival at the University of Central Florida.

"I think that although yesterday really was a horrible day for the space program, the space program will go on, it will continue and it will be better than it is today," she said.

Grief over the loss of the Challenger shuttle in 1986 led to the postponement of President Reagan's State of the Union address. Then-Florida Gov. Bob Graham canceled the rest of a tour launching his successful U.S. Senate bid.

There were some cancellations after the latest tragedy as well.

Houston, home to the astronauts and the nearest major city to the Columbia debris field, canceled a large public event that had been scheduled for Saturday night to celebrate the 2004 Super Bowl being held in the city.

But even in Texas, most events went on as scheduled. The Texas Rangers held their first round of tryouts for the team's new mascot. In Florida, where the shuttle had been scheduled to land, sporting events and conventions continued.

The Rolling Stones played Saturday night in Denver, and the U.S. Postal Service went ahead with an event to unveil a new stamp honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

To an extent, some people believe, the nation is becoming more accustomed to dealing with crisis since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"If this country can rally for something as huge and devastating as 9-11, it surely can rally for one space shuttle, seven-fatality type of event," said former astronaut Jack Lousma, who commanded Columbia in its third test flight in March 1982.

Lousma said he has noticed a stronger resolve by Americans compared with the aftermath of the Challenger disaster.

"There's, I think, a lot stronger statement now than there was before - our need to continue," Lousma said. "Most people are saying 'yes, we're going to continue to do this - we're going to solve the problem and fix it ... this is what Americans do."




(Complete Columbia coverage at Cincinnati.com)

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NATIONAL COLUMBIA STORIES
Was shuttle rescue possible?
Damaged heat tiles suspected
Manufacturer defends fuel tank
Why tile shuttle in first place?
Astronauts' remains should be indentifiable
Recovery teams scour schoolyards, woods
List of what's been recovered
Grieving Americans pay tribute
America absorbs another tragedy, tries to move on
Space station crew grieving but proud
Retired admiral to lead probe
Israeli astronaut's family arrives
Safety, money, expertise on line