Last week while l was on my way to the job that actually pays the bills I happened to look up at the sky and spotted the moon in all its glory. As I glanced at it my mind went back to the summer of 1969.
As a 12-year old boy growing up in the Bronx in New York City the days leading up to one of man’s greatest achievements was filled with excitement. I loved watching rocket launches from the safety of the living room of my parents one bedroom tenement apartment on the one black and white TV they owned. I would even feign being sick to stay home and watch them. Well on the morning of July 16, I didn’t have to fake I was sick, we were out of school for summer break. Like the rest of America I marveled at how smooth the launch went and that man was actually on his way to a sphere thousands and thousands of miles away. What a time to be alive!
The days leading up to the landing of the lunar module and the walk itself are somewhat of a blur, but that Sunday, July 20, the day of the landing and walk are etched into my memory as if it happened yesterday. I sat glued to the television set until I, along with the rest of the world ,heard Neil Armstrong say,“Houston, Tranquility base here, the Eagle has landed.” The cheers and excitement that exuded from my parents and I could have filled a stadium.
The next several hours of that Sunday are a blur to me, but not the anticipation of waiting for the first images from the moon at around 9 p.m. I planted myself in front of the television to await Armstrong leave the lunar module to become the first man to work on another sphere. Roughly around two hours later, sitting in the living room with my mouth wide open, the first images of Armstrong began to beam around every corner of the world and right into my own little world, a world filled with excitement, wonder and many questions a naive 12-year old would ask.
Slowly Armstrong made his way down the ladder into history and an indelible spot in my memory. Reaching the surface of the moon as the first American, but more importantly the first human being, Armstrong uttered the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” We were elated to have witnessed such monumental achievement. I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning watching Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hop around on the surface of the moon, talk to then President Richard Nixon, read a plaque which states we came in peace for all mankind and, more importantly, raise our nation’s flag.
I don’t recall if I even slept that night. I was so pumped up I got dressed at the crack of dawn, ran down to the corner of 179th Street and the Grand Concourse to the newspaper machine. I bought copies of the New York Post and New York Daily news with bold headlines proclaiming, “Man walks on the moon.” The NY Times machine was empty to my amazement and I was bummed not to be able to acquire a copy of that important piece of history. I did later that day get a copy of the Times when a friend who had bought several copies gave me one. I still have these papers, they’ve traveled with me from state to state and overseas during my Army career.
The world was a united place that day; Vietnam Nam was not a headline nor were the troubles of then Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy ran into trouble when a woman who was riding with him drowned in a vehicle accident. The topic of conversation the next day was what we witnessed the night before.
We’re not the same country 50 years later; somewhere along the way we lost civility towards each other. Today we live in Red and Blue worlds where we shout each other’s ideas down. Over the years our innocence slowly dissolved into bitterness; love thy neighbor got lost along the way. I will always fondly remember the day I watched men walk on another worldly body, how for one brief moment everything seemed okay.