Spaceflight Now STS-108

Victims of terrorist attacks honored by astronauts
Posted: December 9, 2001

The ten orbiting astronauts paused their work for a few minutes on Sunday and paid tribute to those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks on America.

"My name is Frank Culbertson and I am the commander of Expedition Three and of course, we were flying on board the station on Sept. 11 at 8:36 a.m. Eastern when the first attack occurred," he said, floating with his nine shuttle and space station crewmates in the roomy Destiny laboratory module.

"We were informed of it fairly shortly after it happened," he said. "We were flying over North America at the time so we were able to look out one of the windows and actually see New York City under attack. That was quite a disturbing sight as you can imagine, to see my country under attack.

"We could see the smoke streaming off to the south, we could see the smoke pall over New York and I believe all three of us were thinking how terrible this must be for the people that were at the point of attack and their families," he said. "The same thing was true for Washington DC as we flew over that an hour and a half later, with the smoke over the Pentagon.

"All of us were affected by that day, greatly," Culbertson said. "All of us thought about it and talked about it a lot on board and received a lot of messages from people around the world in support of what we are doing and in support of the United States and the response that was necessary to this terrorist threat. And obviously, it affects everybody all around the world.

"So to all of those who lost loved ones, to all of those who worked so hard to help people survive and to the people who are trying so hard to stop this threat, we wish you the best. We have thought about you often over the last three months and we will continue to think of you and keep you in our thoughts and continue to do everything possible to demonstrate good international cooperation through the space program of all the countries involved in the international space station and continue to, we hope, set a good example of how people can accomplish incredible things when they have the right goals.

"So thank you very much for your time," Culbertson concluded. "We will continue to think of how we can improve peace around the world, how we can improve knowledge, and hopefully, that will bring people together."

Endeavour has aboard 6,000 two-inch by four-inch American flags that will be mounted on certificates and presented to survivors and loved ones after the crew returns to Earth. A large American flag that was flying atop the World Trade Center during the attacks and was recovered nearly intact is onboard the shuttle as well, along with a Marine Corps flag rescued from the Pentagon and an American flag that was flying above the Pennsylvania state capitol building on September 11.

In addition, the shuttle is carrying 23 New York City police badges, 91 police patches, one large New York Fire Department flag and a poster with pictures of all the fire fighters who died in the attack.

"The American space program has a long history of flying items to commemorate courageous acts ... and this flight is no exception," said shuttle commander Dominic Gorie. "We have literally thousands of items on this flight. We're carrying 6,000 small American flags that will be distributed when we return to the families and loved ones of the victims of Sept. 11 in New York and Washington DC and Pennsylvania.

"We have several large flags that were flying, one is honoring the men and women who helped save untold lives with their actions on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania," he added. "We have a Marine Corps flag that some young marines, as they were running through the Pentagon after it was attacked, found in a burning conference room.

"But I think one of the most significant items we have, if not the most significant, is a large American flag that was flying on top of the World Trade Center. This was found amongst the rubble. It has a few tears in it, you can still smell the ashes and when we first saw it, we were amazed that this flag survived.

"But it's just a tremendous symbol of our country," Gorie concluded. "Just like our country was a little bit bruised and battered and torn, with a little repair it's going to fly high and as beautiful as it ever did and that's just what our country is doing."

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The ten orbiting astronauts paused their work for a few minutes on Sunday and paid tribute to those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks on America.
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