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Houston Community Remembers Shuttle Astronauts - 2003-02-04

The entrance of Johnson Space Center in Houston has become a makeshift memorial for the seven astronauts who died Saturday when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas. The city was home to the astronauts, and many considered them neighbors.

Most who come to pay their respects at this makeshift collection of flowers, pictures, and notes had never met the astronauts, but they view them as members of their own community. One woman, who came with her grand-daughters, had tears in her eyes as she talked about the memorial with them.

Another woman, Sabrina Johnson of nearby Clear Lake, Texas, came on her own. She says the event revived memories of the terrorist attacks of a year-and-a-half ago.

"It's a shame this all happened, and maybe it shouldn't have happened, but God gives a purpose for everything," she said. And all I can do is say, I'm very sorry for the families. And we'll all get through this as American people do, but it's just a lot of tragedy to deal with at once."

Linda Burton visited the memorial with her husband. They live in the neighborhood.

"We pass by here. We just live down the street, but it's just overwhelming being here," she said. "It's a feeling that you get. It's a closeness. And it is true - they're just part of the community. And they won't be forgotten."

Dell Joy of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is visiting her grown daughter, who lives in Houston. Both came to pay their respects.

"This is just such an unbelievable tragedy that you had to come out to join in, so that the families [of the astronauts] know that we all sympathize with them, and send our love and prayers," she said.

Later Tuesday, President Bush joins NASA employees and family members of the astronauts inside the Space Center for a memorial honoring the seven. The service takes place where seven earlier astronauts were remembered 17 years ago, after the shuttle Challenger exploded just after takeoff.