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04/11/08 - Nacogdoches

Columbia Memorial Legislation

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by Donna McCollum

In March, when Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison last visited Nacogdoches, she indicated legislation for Columbia memorials in East Texas would be successful. This week, the tribute for the seven fallen astronauts passed in the Senate. The memorials will also serve as reminder of the dedicated service by East Texans. Hutchison said last month,  " It has been noted to me by senators how wonderful the people of East Texas were during the aftermath of the Columbia tragedy. "

The legislation will explore the construction of at least four memorials in Nacogdoches, Lufkin, San Augustine and Hemphill. The communities led recovery efforts of the disintegrated Columbia. Columbia Center's Dr Darrel McDonald said,  " This corridor of monuments should be a very, very strong way for people to remember the impact that this particular event had upon east Texas. "

Shortly after the Columbia disaster each community individually tried to become a memorial site. Shades of that effort remain. When asked about the monuments proposed in four different cities, supporter and Nacogdoches resident Pattye Greer answered,  " Well, I don't know that I think each one should have one. "

Jockeying efforts for a memorial location were avoided when Hutchision initiated the Columbia Space Shuttle Memorials Act in 2004. Representative Gohmert ushered it through the House last year.

Now there's agreement that a tribute for heroes' efforts should be region wide. Greer said, " Yes, I agree that I don't think we can put it in a place that it would help all of us except one for each place. "

The proposal is to place the memorial in the National Park Service. This will assure that future generations will learn the glory and the risk of space exploration. The Department of Interior will conduct a feasibility study on the project.

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