A pall of gloom descended over Karnal, Haryana, where the first Indian American astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who was killed in the Columbia space shuttle crash on Saturday, spent her childhood.
The mood was sombre in Tagore Bal Niketan, the school where Chawla received her early education.
Those present recalled January 16, the day on which the shuttle was launched.
"It was one of the glorious moments for us. We never thought it would end in such a tragic manner," one of the visitors said.
"I only hope Kalpana comes back alive," said Meena Bansal, one of her classmates. "It is hard to believe that the girl who dreamt of going to the moon in her childhood would meet such a fate."
Describing Chawla as her source of inspiration, a 14-year-old student from the school said, "She encouraged us to chalk out our own career."
Some of them also remembered how she used to take two students of the school to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration every year.
"The students, who went on these trips and were exposed to modern technology, gave us valuable insight into the world's leading space organisation," said another student.