Texas Tribute Honors Astronaut Hero Willie McCool
A 15-foot bronze statue of the late Willie McCool, one of the seven fallen heroes of Columbia, towers in Texas today. The larger-than-life figure was unveiled May 7, 2005, in Lubbock's Huneke Park.
To celebrate his legacy, McCool's immediate and NASA family joined the special ceremony to share memories of their friend, husband, father and son with about 200 people who gathered to honor the late astronaut.
The left hand of the statue points north toward the flight path of the Columbia Shuttle. The sleeve of the astronaut’s flight suit bears the names of his three sons: Cameron, Chris and Sean. The Lubbock sculptor, Eddie Dixon, also inscribed the name of McCool's widow, Lani, onto the ring worn by the astronaut.
Image to left: A monument to Astronaut Willie McCool looms large in Lubbock. Credit: NASA
McCool graduated from Coronado High School in Lubbock. The statue was built through donations from the city.
Gen. Jefferson Howell, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, expressed his thanks to the local communities and businesses of Lubbock who devoted their time, money and labor to the massive monument, honoring McCool.
"Men and women going up in these Shuttles are facing the same terrible risks that John Glenn and those earlier guys did," Howell said. "We just got so used to that scientific work being done by the shuttle crews that we forgot how risky this business is. These astronauts face dangers just like the original seven…I say a prayer of thanks each day I’m allowed to serve with heroes like Willie at the Johnson Space Center."
NASA's Johnson Space Center