Video: For these kids, space is their back yard

By Bob Faw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/13/2005 7:39:34 PM ET 2005-07-13T23:39:34

In Titusville, where the space program is both shrine and lifeblood, the Columbia disaster was a mortal blow, especially at Apollo Elementary School, where the children were devastated.

"The day when the Columbia was destroyed tore into all our hearts," reads Corey Tucci from her essay.

Here, where they honor Project Mercury and all the space shots, the mood has changed. The depression of two years ago is now giving away to growing excitement.

"For us to progress, we need to take a chance," says Patty Reisiger, who works as a receptionist at Apollo Elementary. "And I think getting back into the space program is going to be a good thing."

Nowadays at Apollo Elementary, students write essays about venturing into the unknown.

"Saturn is the planet I would most like to visit," reads 11-year-old Logan Stokely from his essay.

While the horror of Columbia has not been erased, scars are starting to heal.

"I'll be hoping it's not another Columbia incident," says 11-year-old Jesse Miller.

"Now it's even more safe to go," says Corey Tucci.

"I think they've improved it," adds Logan Stokely.

Convening over homemade cobbler, the older generation here has also come to terms with Columbia.

"Just like any other tragedy, you get by it," says Titusville Fire Department Battalion Commander Dave Again. "You realize a lot of people lost a lot of loved ones, but you also realize that's part of the space program."

Titusville knows the stakes are very high.

"If something happens to the shuttle on this one, it would be mistakenly shut down," says local businessman Tom Arceneaux. "Or [NASA would] really back off the program."

But it's a risk, Titusville agrees, worth taking.

"You have to take a chance in life, to advance," says cardiologist Naresh Mody. "So there is a risk in anything we do. If we would never take a risk, we would never be in this country what we are."

And Titusville would never be the community it wants to be again.

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