Long Beach science teacher Jean Tincher has a scrapbook filled with pictures and stories about past space shuttle missions. One of those missions included tomato seeds from space that a Tincher class got to plant. As she read the 1994 newspaper article, she realized the seeds "had gone up on the Challenger and they came back on the Columbia."
Challenger and Columbia -- the two space shuttles that never made it home.
Tincher's fourth grade students watched the Columbia memorial service in the Reeves Elementary library.
"We want to show that we think they're heroes," the science teacher said. "These people are important for us, that they've done something to help mankind."
For one hour, the students sat on the floor, not saying a word. Keeley kept a hand over her heart. Mrs. Wedgeworth wiped away tears. Rex wished he could have been somewhere else.
"I like astronauts and space shuttles and rockets and that stuff," the fourth grader said. "I thought it (the explosion) was just sad and tragic."
At the Johnson Space Center memorial, a bell rang seven times to honor the seven lost astronauts. In Long Beach, students expressed their remorse in cards they wrote to the Columbia Seven families.
"You are in my prayers," Allison Broadus' note said. "I know you will miss them. Even though I didn't know them, I probably would miss them, too."
Kenny Nassar wrote, "I'm sorry that your family members died in the shuttle. Let's hope they have a good life in heaven."
Chelsea Anderson had a similar wish. "I'm sorry one of your family members was on the space shuttle," her card said. "There really is a lot of sympathy in Long Beach."
As their teacher closed her space program scrapbook, Mrs. Tincher said the seven heroes in space were also heroes in the classroom.
"Let's remember them as scientists, since that's what I'm trying to stress to the children," she said.