Bahai News -- Long Beach Press Telegram - Local worshippers mourn fallen Article Last Updated: Sunday, February 02, 2003 - 11:21:51 PM MST

Local worshippers mourn fallen

Shuttle: Astronauts' deaths during return home a reminder of life's fragility, value.

By Dana Bartholomew, Staff writer

With saddened hearts and solemn prayers, Southern California joined a nation in mourning Sunday for the lost crew of space shuttle Columbia, whose seven astronauts perished during its explosive re-entry over Texas.

Residents grieved for them. Ministers eulogized them. And rabbis memorialized the six Americans and one Israeli aboard ill-fated NASA mission STS-107.

Pastor David Triguerus of Bethany Church in Long Beach said he was reminded Saturday that "life is like a vapor and we have to make each (moment of) time count.'

Greg Rhodes, the church's senior pastor, also said Saturday's disaster reminded him of how precious life is.

"We think about the somberness (of the situation), of the brevity of life, the pain of the loss of life, that every life matters; and that things like this remind us how short the days are,' he said. "We are reminded how to live for God, how the days are short; and we pray for the families and the people as they're grieving.'

The morning service at the Long Beach First Church of the Nazarene included a video presentation featuring patriotic music and images of the seven astronauts together as a group and individually, along with "those last tragic shots streaking across the sky,' said the Rev. Jerry Cordell.

"I talked about how it was a sad day for the families and for our nation, and that there would be a time of grieving,' Cordell said. "I tried to lift our faith that we will move on.'

Columbia disintegrated with a thunderous roar 40 miles above the Earth at about 6 a.m. PST Saturday, just 16 minutes before it was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Flaming metal and toxic debris rained over 500 square miles of East Texas and Louisiana.

The second space shuttle lost in 17 years, the Columbia disaster numbed a nation girding for possible war in Iraq and still reeling from terrorist attacks on New York and Washington 18 months ago.

It was the 28th mission for the Columbia and the 113th shuttle mission to date.

The shuttle's seven-member crew included mission specialist Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian- born woman in space.

Her memory held a special spot Sunday evening at the Norwalk- based Shree Swaminarayan Temple, which held a moment of silence and prayers for the seven astronauts.

"It was really a tragic disaster,' said Prakash Patel, treasurer of the temple. Patel's comments echoed the sentiments along Pioneer Boulevard in neighboring Artesia's Little India section.

"We were really very proud of her,' said Vinod Bhindi of Bhindi Jewelers, 18508 S. Pioneer Blvd. "We felt great when one of our fellow countryman made the great accomplishment.'

Bhindi said she was well-known in the Little India community.

"We were aware of her journey,' he added.

"We felt part of her,' said Rakesh Sohal, while tending the counter of his family-owned Bombay Sweets and Snacks, at 18526 Pioneer. "It was a big achievement, and there was a lot of expectation.'

Patel agreed: "We're really proud of her and of the fact that she joined that big task.'

At the Los Angeles Baha'i Center, about 200 mourners heard prayers from members of different denominations.

"It's sad, but true, too, that when there is calamity, there is unity,' said Westlake Village resident Shango Dely. "Each time people are touched by problems and difficulties, there is an understanding that what goes on the world isn't controlled by humans, but by God.'

Monira Sohaili, who was born in India, said she knows the people of her homeland are mourning Chawla's death.

"In a country where women do not often have the opportunities, she was a hero,' Sohaili said. "We're all very sad to hear about them passing away. At the same time, we admire them for being heroes, for being valiant for exploring space.'

At First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, the great organs backed a requiem by Johannes Brahms.

"As we move into our season of prayers, we will want to remember our astronauts and their families...,' said the Rev. Richard Kurrasch, interim pastor of First Congregational. "How mournful we are, oh God, how fragile life is, how much we take for granted.'

, Staff writers David Rogers, Joe Segura and Susan Abram contributed to this report.

©Copyright 2003, Long Beach Press Telegram (CA, USA)

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