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Shuttle commander's wife pens book

January 16, 2004 -- One year ago today, at 10:39am ET, Space Shuttle Columbia launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-107. Rocketing into the cloud-washed blue sky, the orbiter and her crew, lead by commander Rick Husband, would not survive the journey.

Evelyn Husband remembers it all as if it were yesterday.

In her new book, High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband, Evelyn recounts the day she lost her husband and the nation lost seven heroes...

Listen to Evelyn read this excerpt (1.98mb mp3)

The reality of what was happening was setting in at Mission Control, but at Kennedy Space Center, as we anticipated the landing, I had no idea what was going on.

In Amarillo, my parents were quiet as they watched the images on their TV screen. Several bright streaks filled the sky, and when Daddy saw them, his heart sank. CNN was broadcasting that contact had been lost with the shuttle. He turned off the TV.

"Something was wrong with the camera," Mother said, desperately wanting to believe that what they were seeing was a technical error. "The camera was out of focus."

Daddy felt nauseous. "It's not the camera, Jean," he said. "Something's terribly wrong."

Within moments, the doorbell rang. Mother answered it.

"I'm so sorry, Jean," a friend said, grabbing Mother's hand. It was then that Mother knew the camera wasn't out of focus.

When the shuttle was eleven minutes from landing, Matthew, Laura, and I stood for a picture in front of the huge landing clock at Kennedy Space Center, and our faces revealed how excited we were. As far as we knew, Rick was just minutes away. I wasn't aware at the time but found out later that some of the other crew spouses had started listening to communication between Mission Control and the shuttle and knew something was wrong. Steve Lindsey realized it when he heard the dialogue at Mission Control and the attempts to repeatedly contact Rick.

"About the third time I heard them call, the hair started standing up on the back of my neck," Steve says. "It's common to lose transmission for ten seconds or twenty seconds, but not a long time. It was a terrible, sickening feeling."

Although Steve had just told me minutes earlier which direction I should be looking for the shuttle, I had forgotten. When the shuttle was still about a minute out, I asked again: "I'm sorry, Steve. Which direction did you say I should be looking?"

He was listening to Mission Control and held up his finger as if to say, "Wait a minute." Then I saw the color drain out of his face. He couldn't answer.

I saw movement in the corner of my eye and slowly looked to my left. NASA executives and personnel were pouring out of their bleacher seats with cell phones to their ears. My stomach dropped. I could feel my heart beating, but my body was numb. Something was wrong. Oh, God, what's happening?

From that moment on, everything moved in slow motion, even my brain. I couldn't think straight. I looked for Laura and Matthew and saw they were still playing with the other crew children. I looked to my right and saw Keith standing beside Jane. His face was ashen. He had been listening to the communication between Mission Control and the shuttle and had already suspected that something terrible had happened. I moved toward him, but it was difficult to lift my legs; my body wasn't working.

"Keith, I think something's wrong," I whispered.

"I think there is too," he said.

I tried to process what was taking place. There was no way this was happening. This was Rick's dream. It couldn't be ending. Not today. Not like this.

Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. from "High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband." Copyright 2003 by Evelyn Husband. All rights reserved.

But that is not the end of the story, nor is it the beginning.

High Calling follows Rick's journey from his decision to be an astronaut at age four to his rejection when he applied to NASA as an adult. After three failed attempts, he was accepted on his fourth interview.

Evelyn also writes of herself, who, with the entire nation watching, inspired others to find hope, even in the most painful of times.

"In the past year, I have screamed and yelled and cried at God, and He has still been there for me and my children providing hope and comfort," said Evelyn who wants people to know they can have joy and peace in the midst of extreme anguish.

"I have also written this book as a tribute to Rick who demonstrated that it is possible to reach your dreams without sacrificing the things that are really important -- faith, family, and integrity."

High Calling  includes diary entries from Rick Husband; personal stories from his family, fellow astronauts, and long-time friends; and "inner circle" accounts of the days immediately following the Columbia tragedy.

Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, High Calling is co-written by Donna VanLiere. Available now in hardcover and as an audio book read by Evelyn Husband.

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