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Astronaut widows draw on faith, each other

Commander Rick Husband, second from left, and mission specialist Mike Anderson, fifth from left, were in the same astronaut class.
Commander Rick Husband, second from left, and mission specialist Mike Anderson, fifth from left, were in the same astronaut class.

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CNN's Miles O'Brien talks to the wives of two astronauts killed in the shuttle disaster. Bonded by shared experience, the two find solace in friendship. (February 26)
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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- The families of astronauts who died on the space shuttle Columbia say they are relying on their faith and each other to get through the unbearable tragedy.

CNN Space Correspondent Miles O'Brien talked to the wives of two of the late Columbia crew members on Tuesday in Houston, home of the NASA astronaut corps.

For Evelyn Husband, wife of Commander Rick Husband, the dark moments come when their children, 12-year-old Laura and 7-year-old Matthew, are asleep and she is alone with her thoughts.

She spoke of the morning of February 1 -- when the shuttle was coming in for landing at Kennedy Space Center.

HUSBAND: The whole time I'm just very excited, absolutely no anxiety, because nothing had ever happened at landing before. So, launch is, I think, more stressful just because of Challenger. So we've all seen how it could not go well. So ...

O'BRIEN: You figured you'd been through it.

HUSBAND: Exactly.

But when the time came, there was no landing, and suddenly she was surrounded by ashen faces.

HUSBAND: You just get that panicked feeling. And I just thought, something's wrong. And I looked over at Rick's brother, who's a pilot, and I said, "Keith, I think there's something wrong." And he said, "I do, too."

O'BRIEN: There's a lot said about this family that a crew becomes. And it is real, isn't it, especially in this case?

HUSBAND: Absolutely. And as difficult as this is to convey to all of my friends, there is nobody else on the planet that can fill that space better than the crew families because with them we all completely and totally empathize with each other.

O'BRIEN: Your strength is -- it bowls me over. And I'm sure a lot of people have told you that. When -- does it fail you ever?

HUSBAND: Oh, sure. But, I mean, the thing that has not failed -- I have not felt hopelessness. And I haven't felt that once. And I'm being very honest about that. And I'm very thankful for that. There have been times through this that I don't think I can take it anymore. The pain is horrible.

Unbreakable bond

Evelyn Husband is especially close to Sandy Anderson, wife of mission specialist Mike Anderson, who died on Columbia as well. They belong to the same church and live a block apart. Their husbands were in the same astronaut class.

O'BRIEN: How are you shoring each other up?

ANDERSON: We all have a tremendous amount of respect and love for each other. We've been together so long, they really actually do feel like family. And we'll have a bond now that's just unbreakable.

This is something he wanted to do. He probably understood the risks better than I did. And he was willing to take those, so I was willing to support him. And, of course, you never think that's going to happen.

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