(Washington, D.C.) - Tonight, U.S. Senator Patty Murray spoke on the Senate floor in tribute to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
Senator Murray's remarks follow:
Madame President, I come to the Senate floor this evening to join my colleagues in expressing our gratefulness to the seven heros who were lost on the Space Shuttle Columbia Saturday as they completed a mission of science to benefit the world.
I also want to share my thoughts and prayers with the families they've left behind.
Over the past few days, we have seen an outpouring of support from people all over the world for these seven remarkable individuals, and the work they carried out so selflessly.
From formal memorial services -- like the one held in Houston today -- to more spontaneous tributes throughout America, Israel, India and other nations, people around the world have shared their words of loss and appreciation.
Frankly, Madame President, there is little I can add to the chorus of eloquent voices we have heard over the past few days.
But what I can do -- and what I'm honored to do on behalf of the people I represent -- is to share with the Senate how two members of this amazing crew touched the lives of many in my home state of Washington.
Columbia pilot William McCool was a Commander in the United States Navy. He served two tours at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State.
Commander McCool was an EA-6B pilot serving in both the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 133 and the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 132.
His colleague, Columbia Payload Commander Michael Anderson, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force. Colonel Anderson had long ties to the Spokane area in Washington state.
Madame President, both of these astronauts touched lives in Washington state. Both were accomplished pilots. Both were pillars in their communities. Both were strong family members.
On Saturday afternoon, I called the Commander of the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Over the years, I have had an opportunity to work with the fine crews at NAS Whidbey Island. I've shared both good times and bad times with them.
When I called on Saturday just a few hours after the disaster, I knew the air crews and the families would be struggling with Commander's McCool's death.
I spoke with Captain Steven Black. I had expected to hear stories of Willie McCool's service at NAS Whidbey earlier in his distinguished career.
I heard that -- and so much more -- as Captain Black told me about this man who was so revered by his fellow Naval airmen at Whidbey.
Willie was a role model to young flyers at Whidbey. They all followed his career and his many accomplishments in the Air Force and as an astronaut with NASA.
Captain Black told me about his recent emails with Commander McCool.
Just two days before, Commander McCool took the time to email his friends and colleagues at Whidbey. Whidbey Island had an effect on Willie McCool. And Willie McCool had an impact on NAS Whidbey Island that lives on in the mission and the talents of the Naval personnel serving there.
As Captain Black told a reporter, "Willie flew the skies of Washington state. He was a talented pilot. He was very enthusiastic about his work. He had a contagious sense of awe and wonder at the science behind the flying he loved."
Commander McCool touched lives in communities beyond NAS Whidbey. One of those communities is Anacortes, Washington where he and his family lived and continue to own a home.
Anacortes is north of Oak Harbor and NAS Whidbey. It's a small town that took immense pride in having Commander McCool as a neighbor, a parent and a fellow outdoorsman.
Commander McCool's appreciation for Anacortes and the local community was with him on the Columbia mission. He took with him a Douglas Fir Cone from the Little Cranberry Lake area. That cone represented the seeds of a future generation.
Commander McCool's commitment and service to future generations is now represented on the sign outside of Fidalgo Elementary School.
That sign says, "Fidalgo salutes a legacy of a good friend, Commander William McCool."
Let me now turn to another Columbia hero with ties to Washington State, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Anderson.
On Sunday morning, parishioners of the Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Spokane gathered to worship and pay tribute to him.
Michael Anderson and his family are long time members of the congregation. Speaking of Lieutenant Colonel Anderson, Reverend Freeman Simmons offered words of comfort to friends of the Anderson family. Reverend Simmons said, "He belonged to more than his family, more than his race, more than his different affiliations. He belonged to this age."
Michael Anderson was born in New York state. He and his family came to Spokane, Washington during his father's Air Force service at Fairchild Air Force base.
He graduated from Cheney High School and came across the Cascades to attend the University of Washington. At the U.W., Anderson earned degrees in both physics and astronomy. He went on to a career in the Air Force as pilot and was selected to join NASA and the space program in 1994.
Lieutenant Colonel Anderson was one of the veterans aboard Columbia. He previously spent 211 hours in space on the 89th shuttle mission in 1998 to the Russian space station MIR. On that mission, Anderson traveled 3.6 million miles in 138 orbits around the Earth aboard the shuttle Endeavor.
Aboard the Columbia, Payload Commander Anderson was responsible for the incredible science being conducted during the mission. His mission was to manage 79 experiments on behalf of several space agencies and school children in many countries.
Michael Anderson considered Spokane his hometown, and Spokane is proud of his service.
Today, all across Spokane, the community has posted its respect and admiration for our lost astronauts. One sign on Division Street reads, "NASA we mourn with you." Another reads, "Remember our Astronauts."
Lieutenant Colonel Anderson's many contributions to space and science will live as a lasting tribute to an accomplished and heroic American. Let me mention just one.
Following Michael's successful 1998 shuttle mission, he returned to Washington state and the Spokane area.
In May of 1998, he went back to his alma matter, Cheney High School. He shared his experiences with students and he returned a school pennant which he had taken with him into space on that first mission.
One of the teachers described his appearance at a school assembly, saying, "His message to the kids was so upbeat, so positive. It doesn't matter what your dream is, if you're willing to chart the course, if you're willing to do what it takes, you can achieve your dreams. When that assembly was over, nobody wanted to leave. They all wanted to stay and talk to Mike."
Madame President, both of these men left families. These men were spouses, fathers, community leaders, role models in service to our country.
They will be missed by their families and a grateful nation. We will stand with the families as they grieve. We will be with them as the nation seeks answers to the Columbia tragedy. And we will join them in honoring their loved ones as space exploration and discovery go forward.
Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, and all of our Columbia astronauts gave so much in their lives of service and exploration.
Our task is to ensure that their spirit continues to deliver the wonders of space that they explored on our behalf.
I conclude my tribute to our astronauts with the words of Commander Willie McCool from an email message to his colleagues at NAS Whidbey.
Commander McCool spoke of seeing the sun rise and set on the Earth from space.
Commander McCool wrote, "The colors are stunning. In a single view, I see looking out at the edge of the earth: red at the horizon line, blending to orange and yellow, followed by a thin white line, then light blue, gradually turning to dark blue and various gradually darker shades of gray then black and a million stars above. It's breathtaking."