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Amarillo remembers Columbia Commander Rick Husband

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Ten years ago on Friday, February 1st, a trail of fire in the sky shattered the hearts of people all across our nation, particularly those of the people of Amarillo as it lost one of its own as Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry of earth's atmosphere.

People who were close with Shuttle Commander and Amarillo Native Rick Husband say even after growing up and leaving Amarillo, this community was very much a part of who he was until the day he died. And from that tragic day forward, the community of Amarillo has made sure that he will always be a part of us.

For a man who so dearly loved being up in space, it was his "down-to-earth" attitude so many remember about Rick Husband. 

"Because he had Amarillo roots," said former Amarillo Mayor, Trent Sisemore. "He had Amarillo values. He was a man of integrity, he loved the things that are important to a lot of people in this community -- family, the Lord."

Amarillo roots Husband took with him everywhere, even all the way to outer space.

"Rick was so proud of being from Amarillo that in the morning's they let the astronauts pick their wake up music," said another close friend of Husband's, Ellen Robertson Green. "And when it was Rick's turn he picked Amarillo By Morning."

Then tragedy struck, leaving Amarillo in mourning for days, weeks, years. Although Husband never made it back to Amarillo in person, who he was in spirit, never left. Leaving things behind like his car that he drove through high school, college, and until the day he died. When his family decided to auction it off for charity, Sisemore took that opportunity to buy and preserve it.

"It still has his Texas Tech sticker on the back and his NASA sticker on the windshield," said Sisemore. "I realize this is not my car. Even though I own the title of it right now, it's Rick Husband's car. It either belongs to our airport or to his son. I'm just a steward of it in this moment in history."

Husband also left part of his heart and soul at home in the minds of hundreds of children in our schools.

"He impacted Amarillo because he impacted the youth of Amarillo," continued Sisemore. "He spent time with the youth in elementary schools and those young people still remember him."

"We have so many kids that look up to people like Rick Husband and I think that's what his legacy is to the people of Amarillo and certainly to the school children of Amarillo is that it doesn't matter where you start," added Green. "It matters where you finish."

For as proud as Husband was of Amarillo, after his passing, Amarillo wanted to show the world how proud we are of him.

"There was just an outpouring from the community that they wanted to do something for the Husband family and overwhelmingly it was the rename the airport," said Sisemore.

"It gives people a chance to pause and to find out who he was if they don't know who he was," said Green. "And also what kind of person he was and I think that's an important part of his legacy as well."

A statue, created in his image, standing tall, proud and ready to take flight, dream, and achieve.

"There was a great man from Amarillo who achieved the ultimate success in his field, and died doing that," said Sisemore. "And that airport is a reminder of that success and that intuitiveness and that hard work that he gave to our nation and our world."

Friday, the public is invited to come out to a local event honoring Rick Husband. From ten to four, the Texas Air and Space Museum will be honoring and highlighting the life of the Amarillo native and the other crew members who died on Space Shuttle Columbia ten years ago.

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