Updated:CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
It's a special day of remembrance for NASA: Ten years ago, space shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts were lost.
Commander Rick Husband, Co-pilot William McCool, flight engineer Kalpana Chawla, payload commander Michael Anderson, Dr. Laurel Clark, Dr. David Brown and Ilan Ramon were returning home from a 16-day science mission when the shuttle disintegrated over Texas, just minutes from landing in Florida.
A few hundred people gathered at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Friday morning to remember the Columbia seven.
NASA officials joined family members, astronauts and schoolchildren for the outdoor ceremony.
"It's for the youth that we dedicate a lot of the actions we're doing here today," said former astronaut and CEO of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation Jon McBride.
Michael and Nicole Preston remembered the day in a small Texas city when debris from Columbia descended on their lawn and community.
"All over the city, there were all these pieces of debris that had fallen to the ground," said Michael Preston.
The widow of Columbia's commander told the crowd the accident was so unexpected and the shock so intense, that she could not cry at first.
Evelyn Thompson-Husband said the tears came "in waves and buckets" in the week, months and years that followed.
"Feb. 1, 2003, became a traumatic, shocking day," Husband said. "Anticipating a joyful homecoming of our crew, we were jolted in the viewing area into a nightmarish stroll of fear, uncertainty and horror that led to the crushing announcement that the crew had perished."
Thompson-Husband, however, assured everyone that healing is indeed possible.