A solemn group joined in as Christi Wilde sang America, the Beautiful, at a memorial tree planting at Patriot's Park for the seven lost astronauts of the Space Shuttle Columbia on the county's Arbor Day.
The ceremony sprang from a single phone call from Bill Bambrick, the chairman of the Martinez-Evans Rotary Club's Arbor Day.
"It is amazing how the community came together on this in such a short time," Bambrick said at the tribute. "The Lord was watching out for us as I am sure He is watching out for our lost astronauts."
The Rotary Club called in the assistance of Columbia and Metro Augusta Clean and Beautiful, said Lucinda Clark, the club's president.
"It fits the rotary club mission, building relationships in the community and we have an environmental thrust and we got to memorialize some American heroes," Clark said.
A Little Gem Magnolia tree was planted for each astronaut. The planters read a short biography of each before tying it to the tree and sticking a small American flag in the soil surrounding it. The flags will be placed every morning and taken in every night in honor of the flight crew, Clark said.
Seven magnolia trees were planted and a flag placed next to each one in honor of the seven astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia. The Patriots Park event was organized by Metro Augusta & Columbia County Clean and Beautiful and the Martinez-Evans Rotary Club.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The trees, planted just outside the Recreation Department office, will grow to 30-feet tall and 10-feet wide and will bloom in spring and fall, Bambrick said.
The planters who placed soil over the tree roots with golden shovels were: Clark; Bambrick; David Roper, Rotary International director; Lillian-Katharine Blanos, regional executive director of Clean and Beautiful Inc.; Ernie Blackburn, Metro Augusta Clean and Beautiful chairman and Rotary Club member; Ron Cross, Columbia County Board of Commissioners chairman; and Father Allan McDonald of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church.
A granite plaque will be installed near the trees.
"Hopefully they will be here for many years to come," Bambrick said. "(When the plaque is installed), it will be a very classy and dignified memorial to our lost astronauts."
The county usually plants trees for Arbor Day on the third Friday in February.
"I am pleased to announce this is to become an annual event with Clean and Beautiful and the Martinez-Evans Rotary Club," Blanos said. "Each year, we will find someone to pay honor to, living or deceased. I am so pleased."
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