Skip to comments.'We'll remember him with a smile on his face'
Posted on 02/03/2003 12:13:46 PM PST by yonif
Rona, the wife of astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, told Israeli reporters in Houston on Sunday night that she didn't have any particular premonitions of disaster while waiting for her husbands return.
But she recalls now that during the launch, when everyone was on a high because it was so successful, her daughter, Noa, 5, cried out, " 'I lost my daddy.' It turns out that she knew." Speaking after family members arrived from Israel to comfort her, she called on NASA to continue its space program.
Wearing dark sunglasses and a blue blouse with a space shuttle logo, she said her husband was a very optimistic man.
"He wasn't afraid. He left us with a feeling of confidence... everyone who knows him, knows that it's impossible to remember him without a smile on his face, and we will continue forward with that same smile."
She recalled the events of Saturday morning, when she and her family stood waiting for the shuttle to return.
"The clock ticked and we counted, and it was quiet when we should have heard a noise. Afterward, they took us from there and told us that they didn't know anything, but we knew."
Noa, who had been looking forward to her father's return from space, was also reported to have asked her mother: "How can you die in space? People are supposed to die only on Earth."
Upon their return home, they found a number of e-mails from Ilan. Rona didn't divulge the contents of the private ones, but said it was clear that he understood the family would be together when they read them.
There was one thanking Shimon Peres and Bill Clinton for their initiatives to put an Israeli in space.
She said that she and the families of the other six astronauts are like one big family "We are worried about each other."
She said the one thought that comforts her is that her husband died at the height of his career doing what he loved in the company of people he loved. "They enjoyed each other so much. They were a group of angels and they will remain that way."
"We are wrapped in our grief now," said family friend Hudit Keren, who landed in Houston on Sunday as part of an Israeli delegation that came to join Rona and her four children. Included in the group was Ramon's father Eliezer Wolferman and five other relatives.
"We are deeply sorry for all the families," Kochava Eyal, Ramon's sister, told the Associated Press upon arriving at Bush Intercontinental Airport wearing a space shuttle mission pin. "We have deep sympathy for everybody."
"We are very much concerned about finding remains," he said.
Much of the Ramon family and Ayalon will remain in Houston at least until Tuesday, when NASA is planning a special memorial ceremony. Ayalon said he met with Rona Saturday night.
He described her as emotional, but resilient. "We had a very painful and emotional meeting last night, but she struck me also as very resilient, very proud, and a very strong person," he said. "She was very proud of her husband, of what he did. She said how confident she is that he died so happy. This was the height of his career."
In an interview with CNN, Ayalon said he went to Houston "first and foremost to be with the family, to be with Rona, the wife, to see Ramon's wife just to hug her, to hold her hands, to look at her eyes, to be together."
The Ramon family had been living in Houston for two and a half years but planned to stay, as Ayalon said he would, at least until they found out about any remains for burial. "It is very important to us to bring Ilan to a burial," he said.
Ayalon said the nation will find a way to memorialize Ramon.
Asked if this gave him pause about the US space program, he said, "No, not at all. This event has galvanized the two countries together. We have full trust in NASA.
"These brave astronauts died for all humankind. There are few events in a nation's history that galvanize, that pull the people together. We had two of them one very happy two weeks ago with the launch and a very sad and tragic one with the return of Columbia."
On Sunday night, Channel 1 showed interviews with the Ramon family in America prior to the flight. In one shot, Rona sat on the bed while her husband read the newspaper. She said, "We are hopeful that it will go well and that he will return home safely."
Looking at her husband, she said the last movie they saw, Apollo 13, shows the story of NASA's efforts to bring home a space shuttle harmed by mechanical failure.
It was emotional to watch the astronauts safely returning home, Rona said in the interview. She said she and her husband knew the risks he faced. But his son, Tal, said his father wasn't so scared. He was sure nothing bad would happen. Janine Zacharia contributed to this report