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At a memorial ceremony yesterday at the "Gimmel" comprehensive high school in Be'er Sheva, where Israel's first astronaut studied, one of his classmates compared the somber mood in Israel today to the "happy atmosphere" of their high school days.

Reuven Segev, now an engineering professor at Be'er Sheva's Ben-Gurion University, explained: "It was completely opposite from the atmosphere today. We were in the period right after the Six Day War, a period of euphoria. We felt like we had emerged from a terrible danger into a great light. We turned into an empire and thought that this would last forever."

He added, "The air force was the hero of the victory and we all wanted to make it there, he added."

Liora Etzion, a classmate of Ramon's, remembers that he was "a very serious guy. Everyone copied in class, except for him. Part of the shock we all feel is that we were all so sure that everything would work out well in life for him."

Another one of Ramon's former classmates who gathered with current students at his old school yesterday said that Israel's first astronaut was actually the "anti-thesis of the typical pilot and therein was his greatness. He was not the self-confident character, arrogant. He was precisely the opposite."

The city of Be'er Sheva plans to commemorate Ramon "by naming a street, a square or institution in the city" after him, mayor Yaakov Terner told Haaretz after the memorial ceremony at the high school.

Terner, who commanded the IAF flight school when Ramon was training to become a pilot, said that Ramon took some symbols of Be'er Sheva and the Air Force Museum with him on the space shuttle.