Today, our story comes from Nicole and Jimmy Barnett of Roseville, who remember a girls team in Roseville that took it upon themselves to remember a group of heroes lost in a tragic accident.
We left for Florida on Tuesday, January 14, 2003, two days before the seven astronauts were to launch into space on the Columbia Space Shuttle STS-107. One of those astronauts was our Dad’s cousin, David Brown. We met many relatives from my Dad’s family there, including Dave’s parents, for this exciting event.
On Wednesday, NASA took us to a briefing about the entire mission with an overview of each astronaut. Then they took us out to the launch site where we could see Columbia all ready to go, and we were even able to take some pictures. Finally that day, we attended a reception at the Kennedy Space Center that Dave Brown and Laurel Clark gave for their families and friends. Because they were quarantined for a week and a half before the launch, they each had a video presented in which they spoke directly to us that evening. Their enthusiasm for their mission and love for their families was extraordinary!
The following day, Thursday, was finally here—the day of Columbia’s launch! We got up early on a beautiful day and headed back to the Kennedy Space Center where we boarded buses to the viewing area which was only 3-1/2 miles from the launch pad. The launch was set for 10:39 a.m. Eastern time and everything went as scheduled. As the clock wound down, we all counted, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, and the Space Shuttle Columbia was off! Our hearts and chests pounded with the unbelievable sound and excitement! How lucky we felt to be with our family witnessing such a spectacular event!
During its mission in space, we watched on the NASA TV channel the astronauts conduct experiments, give interviews, float around, and even brush their teeth!
Then on Saturday morning, February 1, just minutes before landing time, all communication from the Columbia was shut off. As we watched the coverage from our home in Minnesota, our hearts pounded again. Our worst fears had come true, and that morning we lost Dad’s cousin and the six other astronauts who had become like family to him. How could something so wonderful turn out this way?
That morning Nicole’s Roseville U-10 Girls team, coached by Brad Evenson, had a game at 11:30. In the locker room before the game, the girls decided they wanted to get seven goals—one for each astronaut. The challenge was on, and the goals were scored—all seven of them! Not only did they score seven goals but they added one to make it eight. The eighth goal, it was decided, was for the all the astronauts’ families.
Even though we felt very sad for the astronauts, their families and NASA, we knew the astronauts died doing what they loved, believed in, and had worked so hard, for so long, to do. Somehow it made our U-10 team feel a little better that day scoring the goals for those seven amazing astronauts.
Because of their efforts, along with many others, maybe one day we’ll be playing hockey on Mars!