Remembering Columbia

Ryan Carter

Some children gripped small American flags Friday morning as they

observed moments of silence and sang “America the Beautiful.”

About 400 children from Disney Elementary School assembled on the


campus blacktop to memorialize the crew of the space shuttle

Columbia. All seven astronauts on board died Feb. 1 when the craft broke apart about 40 miles over Texas as it headed to Florida to


The children assembled in a semi-circle as the names of the


astronauts were read and a moment of silence was observed. The

school’s curriculum specialist, Cris Watson, reminded students that

the mission united cultures for science and learning.

“They could be part of that and realize that dream in our

educational mission here,” Watson said.

As part of an ongoing effort to teach the diverse student

population about American customs and values, the students assemble

outside each month for a flag ceremony.


“America the Beautiful” was chosen because of its reference to the

skies and patriotic symbolism, Watson said, adding the ceremony is

essentially a teaching tool. They also sang “The Star-Spangled


Friday was a culmination of a week in which the disaster was not

far from young peoples’ minds. Students in Burbank schools were given

the opportunity to express themselves on the tragedy.

“Teachers waited for the children to bring it up,” Jefferson


Middle School Principal Lynne Perske said.

Because the disaster occurred on the weekend and parents and

children had a couple of days to digest it, teachers didn’t overwhelm

elementary school students with information, she said.

“The whole world feels sorry for the loss of Columbia,” wrote

Matteo Dal Monte, a 9-year-old Jefferson Elementary School student,

in an essay. “We hope to build safer shuttles and never let a tragedy

like this happen again.”

Writing was the most immediate way to express himself, Matteo


“When I learned about Columbia, I had to do something,” he said.