Couple Watched Columbia Launch


Fresh from a Florida vacation, East Verde Estates residents Irene and Virgil Orth settled down Saturday morning to watch the shuttle Columbia return to earth on television.

This particular shuttle flight had special meaning for the Orths because while in Florida, they had watched its Jan. 16 launch -- a first for both of them.

"It was kind of special to be there," Irene Orth said. "We thought, how could we be so fortunate. We had no idea there would be a bad ending."

While the launch appeared picture-perfect to Irene, she said her husband was specifically watching for pieces of debris and thought he saw something fall off each side after Columbia blasted off.

"But then he's 81 years old, so what does he know," she said jokingly.

The Orths, who have owned their cabin in East Verde Estates since 1971, said they were stunned by the tragedy and that it put their vacation in an entirely different perspective.

"Our reaction was, how could this happen? It just spoiled that trip for us," Irene said.

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