Columbia's anniversary, Rick Husband remembered

Nine years ago

on February 1, 2003

, tragedy struck the nation when the space shuttle Columbia broke apart upon re-entering our atmosphere, killing all seven crew members aboard. One was Shuttle Commander and Amarillo native, Rick Husband.

Years ago, before one of his missions to the stars, Husband visited his hometown. When asked if he was afraid to go up in space, his answer was clear.

"Am I nervous to go up in space?," he repeated. "I'm not afraid. I'm really looking forward to it, it's something I've wanted to do all my life."

Long-time friend of the Commander and his family, Ellen Robertson Green said Husband loved his job and worked very hard to get to where he was, even applying to be an astronaut for NASA several times before being accepted.

Something else Husband also loved -- Amarillo.

"Rick was very proud to be from Amarillo," Green said. "On Rick's morning, when it was his turn to pick the song to wake up with, he chose Amarillo by morning."

Columbia, Husband and his six other crew members never made it back from that fateful mission nine years ago. Columbia's left wing was damaged during lift-off and when trying to re-enter earth's atmosphere hot gas got inside, melting the wing.

The tragedy not only changed the hearts of our entire country, but it also changed the way we looked at space.

"I think it made NASA pay more attention than they had been paying about the space shuttle," said Green. "I think that it changed our history because it changed the way we're going to fly into space from now on."

Something that will never change, though, is the pride Amarillo felt and will continue to feel for its hometown hero.

"Every time I walk through the airport, I look at the statue of Rick and I'm glad we have it there and I just want to say 'hey Rick'," laughed Green. "I'm real proud of Rick, I think we're all real proud of Rick and we worked hard to tell the world what a great guy he was and what a huge, huge tragedy it was that we lost him."

Growing up, Husband attended Tascosa High School for one year before transferring to Amarillo High School. Amarillo High now has a memorial to Husband in their school and along with the statue of the Commander inside the airport right outside Amarillo, it also was re-named after him -- Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.