Hometown Holds Its Breath

Here is another shot of Portman as she arrives for the party, which was held at New York's Time Warner Center.
John Glenn once said that New Concord, Ohio, was the town that instilled in him a sense of duty, humility, and devotion to God and country.

On Thursday, New Concord was the place where excitement over Thursday's shuttle mission and concern for John Glenn's safety come together.

CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports that town residents gathered Wednesday night at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where Glenn spent many hours of his life, for a prayer vigil.

"We gather to thank God and celebrate the life our own American hero," the minister prayed.

The town that watched John Glenn grow up and become an astronaut and U.S. senator was dotted with American flags and banners Thursday as it prepared to watch him become the oldest man in space.

Along Main Street, the flags hung from a few houses where pumpkins were laid out on steps to welcome trick-or-treaters. A white banner hanging over the road said in red letters: "Godspeed John Glenn."

Brett Sturtz, 38, rushed into the Friendship Corner Family Restaurant with the mail, trying to finish his rounds so he could watch the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

"It's once in a lifetime for a lot of people, and he's doing it twice," Sturtz said in the entranceway. "All the people around here are really excited."

Glenn, who grew up in this town of 2,000 people in eastern Ohio, made history in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit Earth.

At John Glenn High School, many of the 800 students have become nonchalant about being interviewed by media that have descended from around the world onto this dot just off Interstate 70.

The launch was being shown on a 25-foot screen in the school gymnasium. On Saturday, they get to talk to him through an audio uplink to space, a bit farther than the surprise visits by Glenn they get at school about once a year.

"Our kids aren't watching STS-95 going up," said Principal Gary Lucas. "They're watching John Glenn go up. They're watching this man they know. They're watching this person from their hometown. The science is just now starting to become a little more important to them."

Glenn typically divides his time between Washington and Columbus, about 65 miles west. But he likes to mark milestones here.

Information Please on the Space Age
Glenn was born in Cambridge, about 10 miles away, and moved to New Concord before he tarted school. The house where he lived stands on Friendship Drive, renamed in honor of the Friendship 7 spacecraft in which Glenn traveled 36 years ago.

Glenn graduated from New Concord High School, which in 1962, months after his historic first flight, was named after him.

He studied mathematics at Muskingum College from 1939 to 1942, when he left to enter an aviation cadet program during World War II. The college awarded him a bachelor of science degree in 1962.

Glenn's wife, Annie, also grew up in New Concord and went to Muskingum. They were married in 1943.