You may or may not recall hearing Kennedy's commitment to putting a man on the moon and you may or may not have believed that it was anything more than science fiction for that to happen, but it did. This week that man, the first, Neal Armstrong, died at age 82.
The whole week prior was exciting. I still have copies of the Waterloo Courier published each day of the trip, topped off with the moment when Armstrong took that first step. Or "hop" might be a better word. It was kind of amazing that a key talking point in the days that followed was that they didn't really "walk", they "hopped." One of those silly things that stick in your head.
As the years have gone by the actual event has gotten later and later in the day in my memory, because my whole focus that evening was keeping my two oldest daughters, then ages 4 and 2, awake to see it. I was sure it happened after midnight. Now I'm surprised to learn that Armstrong actually stepped down at about 10 PM CDT, far earlier than my recollection.
We sat glued to the TV in the basement family room of Lonna's childhood home in Lake Mills. The girls were tired and I wanted so badly for them to be able to see it because it was obviously an historic moment. But they were tired from the trip to Lake Mills and all the excitement that goes along with being at grandpa and grandma's and if you're only 2, you don't quite get the impact.
I recall talking talking, it's exciting look at the moon in the sky, look, a man's going to walk there, would you like to go to the moon, that's the moon - and the only reaction was bobbing, dozing heads. It seemed like hours from the time the door of the lunar module opened until the step was actually made, but I was committed to keeping those two girls awake, and I did. One on each knee, bumping, shaking gently, talking, talking.
I confirm they indeed saw it. But they don't remember a dang thing.
Still, Armstrong was a heroic individual. Stoic, gallant, blessed. Without astronauts we don't have many heroes like that anymore.