To replace a plaque because the letter c was added to the last name of Judith Resnik, the first Jewish woman astronaut, would have cost the city of Titusville, Fla., 15 “C notes” and time it didn’t have.
So the city allowed the 3-by-5 foot bronze plaque to be installed last June in its memorial to the 10 American astronauts who died on duty. But on January 28, an astronaut noticed the error during a ceremony in memory of the seven Challenger space shuttle astronauts.
The mistake soon was reported in the national press, and early this week officials of Titusville, a community of 39,000 across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center, answered 30 phone calls offering to pay for a new plaque or to actually make it.
“We’ve been so blessed with it, I tell you. It has really been heart-warming to know people have cared that much,” Jean Seiffert, administrative assistant to the Titusville city manager, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Seiffert, who also chairs the city’s Flag and Memorial Committee that oversaw design and construction of the memorial, decided to accept the first offer of help. She said Robert Neel of Woodlawn Memorial Gardens, Orlando, Fla., will send the plaque to a foundry in Pittsburgh to be either repaired or recast, and will pay for it.
Citizens donated $12,000 and the city paid $24,000 for construction of the memorial, which Seiffert said is located in the city plaza. She described the memorial as octagonal, 40 feet in diameter with 11 plaques set in the ground.
Ten of the plaques memorialize an individual astronaut from either the Challenger or Apollo I, which burned on the launching pad. The final large and errant plaque lists all of them. At the center is a six-foot-tall stone that resembles the nose cone of a space vehicle, from which a 60-foot flag pole extends.
The administrative assistant said she knew of one offer of help from a Jewish source. Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Midchester Jewish Center, Yonkers, NY, told JTA that after reading the news report of the error, “I was sick to my stomach.” He found a Yonkers monument company to do the work for free.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.