(A man steps on the Moon and the Earth gets smaller. . .) (To all the visionary Moms. . .)
I was sitting in a tiny apartment in Long Beach, MS during one of the loneliest periods of my life. I was just out of college, in my first teaching position and a long way from home and friends. I had rented some furniture and a TV and had just got it hooked up as Walter Cronkite--in a choked, cracking voice--reaffirmed that "the Eagle has landed".
From that point on, I stayed in front of that set watching man reach a goal that transcended all my petty problems. By the courage and skill of the astronauts and all the people who had put them there, somehow I wasn't alone any longer. As Neil Armstrong stepped onto the powdery surface of the Moon, my phone started ringing. One after another, friends and family started calling me. Some I hadn't heard from in years. How they found me, I'll never know. But they did. And the simple fact that they HAD gone to all that trouble to share that moment with me touched me as deeply as I've ever been touched.
Suddenly, I had to reach out to other people that meant something to me so that we could all somehow be connected at this time. I called a college roommate in Massachusetts, an uncle in St. Louis, a high school buddy in Texas. We talked as we watched history being made, storing up memories for my grandchildren and simply being a part of it all.
Now I have those grandchildren and I have passed on to them my memories of a time when man "slipped the surly bonds of Earth and touched the face of God". A time when Americans everywhere were all a part of a moment in time that can never be duplicated but surely relived and cherished.
(Dare to dream. . . )
I am 45 years old. I have seen the most powerful images on television that any generation has ever seen. The Kennedy assassination, the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the unfolding of Watergate and . . . the first landing on the Moon.
I was at a summer camp in the Catskill mountains. There was one television set in a staff workers room. We were friends, and I had to see this event, so I broke all the rules and got into her room to see, "one giant step for mankind."
All of the events I have ever watched on television are measured by this single event in my life. The tragedy of lost lives, lost hopes, and broken promises that came before and after the televised landing on the Moon are held in check by the incredible experience of actually reaching the Moon, and stepping down to its surface. America did it . . . in spite of the failures, the lunacy of the times, the questioning of all authority, the riots, and the race wars.
It lit a spark inside my 18 year old imagination. Dare to dream! Don't get sucked into the lie that we can't do it, can't recover from our mistakes, can't risk failure. Learn all you can about everything you can. Experience everything you can because no experience is wasted.
The image on the screen was fuzzy but I didn't care. I knew I had seen something that would change my life forever. I could say that I saw it happen!
Now in 1996, I work as a television producer. I help to shape the images of the world that my children see. They cannot appreciate the importance of Dan Rather's concept..."the camera never blinks", because they have seen it all for all their lives. But I saw the sweeping changes in how we perceive reality through television . . . from the early sitcoms with perfect families living perfect lives while using products that could do everything to make your life better . . . to the reality of real life with its death, tragedy, courage, victory and realization of dreams coming true.
I saw the first man to step on the face of the Moon!
- Alan Fleming
(A "giant step indeed". . . )
The Moon walk was my walk on that night. I was standing in front of a large window, staring at the large Moon, listening to the broadcasts coming from the other room and trying to rock a ten-month-old infant to sleep. She had a fever, a flu and I had a life-threatening, black dog postpartum depression that had kept me house bound for eight months. The thought of venturing outside, past that threshold, into the world of speeding cars and checkout lines was enough to incite a panic that took on a life of its own, for hours, as it robbed me of mine. There was no husband who had stuck around, no job left to go back to, and no best friend to call since I couldn't afford a long distance call. Just Buzz Aldrin. The longer I swayed back and forth with that child and stared at the Moon, the more deeply and dramatically came the realization that one of my kind was walking on that mysterious, cold surface. What a leap of faith. Giant step indeed. I walked out the front door the next day. Thank you, Buzz.
- Author Unknown
(A teenager grows up . . . )
On July 20, 1969 I was in Hayden Lake Idaho with my sister. Our parents had left us off with some friends while they took a weeks vacation in Las Vegas. My sister and I hated everything about Hayden Lake. It was small, and there wasn't much to do and these people our parents left us with made us do all their dishes and drank beer in bed. Not only that, being 14 years old, my complexion was beginning to look like the lunar surface itself and I was beginning to think I'd never attract a male as long as I lived.
I remember that everyone was talking about how the Apollo spacecraft was close to landing on the Moon and it didn't mean that much to me in light of all my adolescent worries, so instead of staying at my parents' friends house to view the landing, my sister and I took a walk around the lake. We were about half a mile down the road when a man came out of one of the lake resort taverns and shouted at us. "Hey, you two can't miss this, don't you know that after today nothing will ever be the same?" My sister and I politely smiled and tried to walk around him but he gently grabbed our arms and escorted us inside the tavern.
Once inside, we were confronted by the presence of a lot of people, young and old, just normal looking family types, sitting around looking up at the TV mounted on the wall. We watched with them as Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the Moon and the first astronaut set foot on the Moon's surface. There were a lot of wows and head shaking and one lady was even crying. I don't think I even had an inkling of the awesomeness of the event until I saw how it affected all those people and realized that this indeed was a moment in history. All my adolescent angst seemed to dissipate in the sacred few minutes we sat watching history being made. Suddenly I was very grateful to the man who pulled us in to watch the lunar landing, because if it hadn't have been for his insistence we might have missed it.
After the event was over, the man who pulled us in, (who was also the tavern owner), opened some bottles of wine and gave everyone in the room a glass, including my sister and I. We felt so grown-up and everyone we talked to was nice and told us stories about the things they'd seen in their lives and how walking on the Moon topped everything. It was sort of like being at a family reunion.
It was the best thing that happened to us during that entire week, and after two small glasses of pink wine, we left giggling all the way back to the house. When we arrived my parents' friends told us all about the lunar landing and the walk on the Moon like they were sure we'd missed it. My sister and I just giggled. I'm sure they wondered about us because we never told them where we'd really been.
- Author Unknown
(A boy with a passion . . .)
July 20, 1969 I was 5 years old. We lived in Aruba, N.A. My dad worked at the oil refinery on the north shore of the island. I remember the night Apollo 11 launched. We watched it on a giant black and white TV in the living room. Afterwards, I ran outside with my dad, convinced I would see the trail of fire in the night sky. He brought out the binoculars and we looked at the Moon for a long time. I remember him putting me up on his shoulders because I asked him to get me closer to the Moon so I could see better. I remember my dad telling me the Moon was so far away it would take three days for them to get there. The night the Eagle landed we were glued to that big TV set. I remember my grandmother and I praying they would be safe. We cheered at the top of our lungs when Neil stepped out onto the Moon for the first time.
After that, every time there was a launch I was outside at night looking for the pillar of fire. I kept maps of the Moon from National Geographic on my bedroom wall. I drank Tang at every meal. That Christmas my uncle Bobby bought me a Saturn V model rocket, and my mom got me a "real" astronaut helmet which I wore constantly. All I wanted was to be an astronaut when I grew up. I cried so hard when I found out NASA had to cancel the remainder of the Lunar landings . . . now I would never get to go.
Those nights affected my whole life. When I was 14, I painted my entire room black and hand painted stars on the walls and ceiling. (Thanks Mom! ) I am still an avid science fiction reader. I carry a meteorite as a lucky charm and my prize possession is a pair of Flight Commander Wings with the NASA symbol on the shield. I follow the space program closely to this day. My home page has a link to www.nasa.gov. One of the best books I've ever read about the Apollo missions is "A Man on the Moon" by Andrew Chaikin. When the movie "Apollo 13" came out, I was overwhelmed by the emotional impact of all the memories that it brought back. I cried and I cheered and I remembered it all. I always will. And someday I will get to go . . .
- Author Unknown
(Her mother's story . . .)
My mother, Mary Caswell Walsh, was twenty when the first men landed on the Moon. She lived with her parents and four brothers in a large farm in Sebastopol. Sebastopol was a small town in California which was full of orange poppies and swaying grass. There were orchards and vineyards, a town which seemed to be frozen in an earlier century.
Many families, like the Caswells, did not own a television. There were only a few houses with televisions, and these houses were very crowded on the night of July 20, 1969. My mother had gone over to her grandmothers, after a day of teaching English at the local school. Soon the rest of her family came. They prepared to watch the first lunar landing.
My great-grandmother's house was a merry scene that night. The smells of her concoctions cooking on the stove drifted into the living room where the family sat. The air outside was still and quiet, as if it too felt the anticipation of the coming events.
As my mother watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climb down from the LEM, she felt determined to learn more about the technology that had brought those men to the Moon. The technology from which her small town seemed disconnected. Viewing the lunar landing awakened in my mother the excitement and love of stars which grows in everybody.
She passed this on to me, and encouraged me in all ways possible to learn about what I love best: space. That is why I now want to be an astronaut.
What events would have been changed if she had not watched that lunar landing so long ago? She could not tell me. All she could say was that it was one of the most thrilling experiences of her life, and she will never forget it.
- Author Unknown
(A little girl is launched . . .)
I remember very vividly being six years old, watching black and white television, transfixed with my parents to the screen. We, and the world were watching.
Apollo 11 was everywhere, newspapers, radio, TV, on the neighbors lips, news floating throughout the air. Literally!!
But what I remembered that has burned in my memory is a very special pride that I felt later that summer. My father was a research scientist and my mother a doctor, and they took me to Cape Canaveral, Cape Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, and we toured the facility. I remember the area where they showed us mission control. I remember the feeling of the enormity of the hangar. How could any building be so big! I remember the gigantic computers. And then, there was the solid concrete building facility that they brought us to, outside the hangar, outside the main building. This thick gray solid building, with blue-gray stairs, all concrete and metal, that they took us into and upstairs, was the building that contained the systems that initiated the Apollo 11 launch. There were about 15 people in our tour group. The computer systems were roped off, so we could look but not touch. I was fascinated. In tremendous reverence, the tour guide explained what we were looking at. Then he motioned to me, and asked me to come forward. I was wearing a red, white and blue hot pants outfit that was very patriotic. He was impressed with my young patriotism and interest and he asked me to press the red button which had been the key that initiated the Apollo 11 launch!! Never had I dreamed I would see or touch something so significant. A connection with space, with flight, with dreams. A simple touch of a key can turn dreams into reality. I was so proud! A little Asian girl with a china doll haircut who's only colors she could see were red, white, and blue--to be able to touch, I thought, a link from the Earth to space.
That fueled my passion for computers, technology, and aerospace. Now, I am an aerospace structural engineer!
- Author Unknown
(She made a decision then . . .)
I was 20 years old, a self described "hippie", your basic college dropout, trying to decide what I was going to do with my life at the time man was about to step on the Moon. As a woman, I wondered why there weren't any "female" astronauts at the time. The love of my life had just been drafted but, fortunately, at the height of the Vietnam War which was raging at that time, he was sent to Anchorage, Alaska for 18 months! It might as well have been Nam or Siberia or whatever; Anchorage was an awful long way from Winnetka Illinois where I was spending my summer as a "Summer Girl" with a family with four little girls who were my charges. On the night Buzz stepped out onto the Moon we were all up in the middle of the night watching the event on television and we were all in awe! I remember walking outside and looking up at the sky and marveling that the United States was represented in person up there! I think, after watching all the reports on TV that it put a bug in my head that led me to the broadcasting field. Right after that event I signed up for a course in radio broadcasting at a small Chicago school and that led to a career in radio that has lasted over 25 years!
Now I'm the one reporting on the space program over radio stations in Southern California where I'm an anchor and reporter for Shadow Broadcast Services. Last year while on a trip to Florida I toured the space center and once again felt the pride in our nation's space program. At our broadcast facility in Los Angeles, we always tune into CNN in our operations center whenever there is another shuttle liftoff and it never fails to thrill us, as we are all "fans" of the space program and anything to do with flight for that matter. The closest I'll get to stepping on the Moon is a commercial airline flight or one of the many helicopter flights I'm on when I'm covering a fire or other disaster, but it is fun to follow the space program through all the films and television reports we get to see in this great age we live in.
-Nancy Plum, Radio and Television Announcer
In 1969 Deer Park, Texas was a small town. The country still existed with cattle and rodeo grounds. The Plants were moving in but they had not taken over the beautiful land out by The Battle Ship of Texas and the San Jacinto Monument.
Life was simple back then. The ideal date was driving down Center Street at night and meeting people at Pizza Inn. The summer of '69 was a hot Texas summer. My mom had us stay at home and watch the updates on the astronauts.
Ever since I can remember she would have us watch anything that had to do with NASA. She said they were the future of America. So we must have watched Kennedy give his speech a million times. From that day on any space adventure was tuned into at our home.
Mom rushed home from work and we all watched in our living room. All 5 brothers and I had a pillow on the floor watching the historical event, while my parents were sitting next to each other, mom with her rosary praying for the astronauts. When they landed we couldn't believe we were seeing the real Moon. It was not "Lost in Space!" We had real American's there. I remember how proud it made me to be an American, and a Texan! Our whole family was cheering and my mom lit a candle for the astronauts as a sign of Thanksgiving. Dad got out the champagne for him and mom and took a drink for the boys in space. We had Kool-Aid. Oh well.
I remember my mom and I stayed up all night and watched the landing over and over and over again. We talked about President Kennedy and how happy he was in heaven smiling down on the boys. We said a prayer for his kids because I was always sad that they didn't have a daddy. It was a time for the family to be together and share a spectacular moment in history, as a family. Today as a mom it warms my heart to share this event with my children. How smart my mom was to make it a family time. I will always believe watching the news and growing up near NASA played some role in me being a visionary today. . .to have seen the impossible happen as a child, and now to be a pioneer in education. To see the impossible and make dreams become a reality is my battle cry. Thank you Buzz and your crew. All of you touched lives in ways you can not ever imagine. I know because you touched mine.
- Diann Boehm
On July 20, 1969, I was 100 years in the past portraying a young woman of Wichita, Kansas at our historical Old Cowtown Museum. As a member of the Wichita Area Girl Scout Council, the Girl Scouts have been providing the "population" of the historic town each summer for the past 49 years. We wear costumes authentic to the time and place, we take on a personage of someone who would have lived in Wichita at that time and complete the daily tasks young women performed.
I remember I had just walked into the Delmonico's Restaurant for my break thinking how odd I felt to be representing 1869 and seeing an almost futuristic event on the TV in 1969 of man walking on the Moon.
It reminded me of the hardships, courage, dedication and quest for adventure the American pioneers had to venture into the unknown. Much like the pioneers of the era I was representing that day---many had ventured out of the known "world" into another---the desert of the plains---to begin a new life, a new era for mankind. "One small step" helped people to set forth on the Oregon or Santa Fe Trails. Neil Armstrong placed a similar "step", of adventure and awakening of the frontier spirit we Americans are so fond of calling our own, on a distant Moon a mere 100 year later. Some say the Moon is a desert, yielding nothing but the sun's reflection. I believe it has become a symbol of adventure to the human spirit.
That day, no . . . that moment, will forever be remembered by me.
- Author Unknown
I was eight when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. I have only vague memories of Tinker Toy machines, Lincoln log houses, and train sets, but I remember the Moon landing very clearly. I watched little TV: Batman was too violent (at least my Mom thought so and wouldn't let me watch it), I did not understand the body counts on the news, and I had not yet discovered Star Trek. However, Mom and Dad let me stay up well past bedtime to watch the Moon landing. We all crowded the front porch in near darkness, expectantly watching the TV. For ages, the picture showed only a still life of the outside of the lander as the astronauts inside prepared to exit. Again and again, I would look up at the Moon then back to the TV. Finally, the astronaut came out, climbed down the ladder, and stepped on the Moon. I kept on wondering, if he is right there, who is taking the picture?
I never realized how deeply the Moon landing affected me until years later in college. After several false starts, I finally decided to study engineering, but what kind of engineering? The image of Neil Armstrong on the Moon flashed in my mind. Of course! I'll study aerospace engineering! I've never deviated from my chosen path. After graduating, I worked for NASA on the Space Shuttle then the Space Station. (Years later, I finally figured out that they used a remote controlled camera to film themselves.)
On the twentieth anniversary of the Moon landing, a disc jockey in a shopping mall asked a crowd of teenagers, "What happened on July 20, 1969?" The DJ laughed as the teenagers spewed forth a stream of strange and often bizarre answers. I turned, pushed through the crowd, and said "That's when we landed on the Moon." The DJ's smile faded and the crowd went silent. "How did he know that?" one whispered. "I work for NASA," I replied. As a prize, the DJ gave me a foam "Moon rock" that I still keep on my desk.
- Kevin Schaefer, Aerospace Engineer
Lake George, N.Y. July 1969. My rock & roll band, which went under the unfortunate name Mocha Chip, was on the road in upstate New York, playing at roadhouses and resort town bars. At the time of the Moon landing, we were engaged at a joint called the Airport Inn, which had an actual airplane hanging from the ceiling as decoration.
On July 21 it happened that a meeting was scheduled with the owner of the club, to discuss possible future bookings. We met in the afternoon and the club owner spent the whole meeting complaining about the Moon landing, how everyone had been home watching it on TV and therefore not spending money at his bar. His comment, now that the historic event was over, was "Thank God it's back to business-as-usual."
I remember being struck speechless by this viewpoint, and marveling at how the concerns of a human being can be reduced to such petty, self-interest. This short statement came to be a large influence on my personal politics and philosophy, and as you might imagine, I did not turn out to be one of those Baby Boomers who becomes giddy over the upward surges of the Dow Industrial Average.
- Jeff Costello, Musician
I was 9 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. I remember it vividly. I recall writing in a diary the time Neil stepped out from the LEM, which foot he planted first on the Moon, and Walter Cronkite nearly speechless on TV. The event made such an impression that I, like many others my age, wanted to become an astronaut when I grew up. But, I also wanted to be a surgeon. I remained focused on the latter goal and now practice as a neurosurgeon in Northern Virginia. The dream of space flight remained with me though; I even wrote to other astronaut/physicians to see how they managed to do it. Unfortunately, many have given up their medical careers for space flight, something I was not willing to do.
We should realize how much medicine benefited from the space program of the 60's and 70's. Many of the instruments and metals, implants and polymers we use in modern surgery today were developed in the Apollo program. The computers and telemetry machines used during the mission were the precursors to what you see in the intensive care units of today's hospitals. We owe it to ourselves to renew the spirit of the Apollo program by supporting more lofty goals of future manned space flight. In that way, other 9 year olds will be stimulated to pursue scientific careers that will be of benefit FOR ALL MANKIND.
- James W. Melisi, MD, FACS
The landing of Apollo 11 in the Sea of Tranquility is my first memory in life. I was born on February 10, 1967, so I was only about two and a half years old. My parents had a little, orange, love seat. I was sitting on the love seat while they got ready for church (I assume for evening services), and I watched the landing coverage on a black and white, portable television set.
It was a defining moment of my life. I told my parents I wanted to be a spaceman, and it was no passing fancy of a child. I spent my childhood learning about flight, and building and flying model rockets and model airplanes.
When I was twenty-three I was accepted to Naval Air Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida to become a naval aviator. I thought I was on my way. Two weeks later Congress cancelled the funding for the flight program under which I was accepted. For a number of years it became nearly impossible to become a new military pilot, so I was never able to.
At that point my life changed, and I am quite happy with it, but that is just how impressed I was with the landing. As it happens, I am very active in high power rocketry (which is the adult version of the model rocketry that fascinated me as a boy), and I work at NASA. I am not an astronaut, but I am glad to be on the team.
I currently teach computer courses at a small college in the Silicon Valley, and I am a network administrator at the NASA Ames Research Center. Several of my friends and I are eagerly watching the X Prize competition for civilian space flight with the hopes that we will someday be able to personally travel in space as tourists . . . and who knows, maybe we will get to walk on the Moon ourselves after all.
- Daniel S. E. Cascaddan, Instructor, NASA Ames Research Center
At the age of 6 (1960) I first uttered the words "I want to be an astronaut." I figured maybe I should learn to fly first. Almost all the astronauts were military, so that seemed the direction to go. It was later obvious, to even a 10 year old, that I was too late for the Moon and the space station program that would surely follow, but I'd be there for Mars! Well, politics threw a wet rag over the space program and I ultimately went on to other things, but the inspiration was not wasted.
Those first astronauts are the only real heroes the second half of this century brings to mind. They set standards for courage, intellect and professionalism that may never be achieved again in our life time. Yes, I actually received a degree in Aerospace Engineering and went on to become a Navy Pilot. Now I captain a Boeing 727 airliner. How many of these and other personal achievements of mine and countless other Americans wouldn't have been made if not for the heroes, the accomplishments, and the wonders of our Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs?
On the evening of July 20, 1969, while sitting with most of my family in the "rec room" of our semi-suburban New York home, we waited. My family and I (now age 15) watched in amazement as Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module and onto the Moon's surface. We . . . had . . . actually . . . done. . . it. That single moment brought into stark focus the unbelievable improbability of overcoming all those oceans of obstacles. In awe, I opened the bottle of champagne I had ferreted away from my cousin's wedding years before (just for this occasion); toasted my family and quietly took another step toward my future. But I had changed . . . just a little.
- James Moscardini, Pilot
Copyright © C.M. Pate 1999 All rights reserved.
(A man steps on the Moon and the Earth gets smaller. . .)
(To all the visionary Moms. . .)