I was very sorry to hear that Neil Armstrong died on Saturday. I’ve had a number of where-were-you-when moments in my life so far, and most of the ones I remember most vividly are the tragedies, not the triumphs. But the walk on the moon in 1969 was almost impossible to believe, even though I saw it with my own eyes, and was so inspirational! I really felt there was nothing the American people could not do.
My sister Juanita and her family were staying with Mother, Daddy and me on the farm that July. We had all been eagerly following the news as the Apollo 11 spacecraft reached the moon and went into orbit. Juanita’s husband, Larry, was an Army officer, a helicopter pilot, and he was nearly beside himself with excitement.
The moonwalk was going to be later that night, and we made plans to stay up and watch it. This was history being made. And we could watch it on TV! It was going to be a late night for me, as an early-to-bed teenager, so I was excited by that alone, much less for the first man to walk on the moon.
Juanita put her small sons to bed, and the five of us sat in the living room under the drone of the air conditioner, spread out on the couch, chairs and the floor (for me.) We watched the blurry black-and-white video stream as the Eagle landed, and waited what seemed like hours for the walk on the moon. Finally, at nearly 10 p.m. Central time, NASA Mission Control and the TV reporters announced that Neil Armstrong was going to leave the lunar lander.
Larry ran out of the living room and pulled the boys out of bed. He carried them, clinging to him and full of sleep, and put them on the couch. “What are you doing?” Juanita said. “They’re too small to remember this.”
“They can say they saw it, even if they don’t remember,” Larry said. The boys soon drifted off to sleep again on the couch. Larry rode one of the couch cushions and punched it in his excitement. Mother and Daddy seemed stunned. That the world could hold this!
So today I am remembering Neil Armstrong and his “one small step for a man.” He did not behave like a hotshot flyboy; he was modest, low-key, and a test pilot who changed history.
We watched the landing and the moonwalk on CBS, being loyal watchers of Walter Cronkite, but here is video of the original footage, from ABC News:
May Neil Armstrong rest in peace, and may we return astronauts to space someday.