July 18, 2004

Quiet nite, Giant Leap

In July 1969 I was a 12 year old former Air Force Brat, just starting my second year in a civilian environment. We lived about 20 minutes outside of Ft. Benjamin Harrison in a neighborhood off of Arlington Avenue in Indianapolis.

The house was a small rental. The furniture had survived several cross-country moves; some of it had crossed halfway across the Pacific and back intact. We had a yard, a real yard, fenced for our pleasure alone if so desired, not just a corner of some greater community green space between buildings in base housing. We even had a cat, a luxury we had never before been permitted by parents or those in charge of housing.

July 1969 was a time of rapid change, both in our home and in our country: new president, a long running war half a world away, school integration, suburban flight, hippies, Black Panthers, four seasons, schools with no programs for students after school or during the summer months. There wasn't even a lunch program. It would have been pointless, since the schools had no cafeterias for hot lunch or for eating one's sack lunch. You walked home and you walked back in 45 minutes. This was the case in the first two schools I attended in Indianapolis, and this was a big city in 1969, albeit a provincial one.

On that night in July of 1969 the house was small, air conditioning was for stores and restaurants, and the television was black and white and seemed made of cast iron when we tried to move it. The room was dark except for the flickering un-natural electric blue glow cast by the snowy screen. It filtered through the air and through the drapes of our front window as it did through countless other windows on our street and on streets all over the world that late, late night.

We sat in our nightclothes, pyjamas for me and my 10 yr old semi-awake brother, gown and duster for Mom, boxers and a white t-shirt for Dad. We sat there together and watched images sent to us from further than images had ever been sent before, of men who had traveled further than any man had traveled before. We watched and listened for what seemed hours to the excited, static-filled narration from Houston, and the calm narration of Walter Cronkite.

And we watched as a man took a lonely trip down a ladder to a surface that no man had touched before. Would he sink into the cosmic dust, the accumulation of millions of years of star-birth and galactic demise? What if it supported him but ultimately compromised that delicate womb of fiber and membrane that kept his entire environment with him? What if?

In July 1969, on that muggy warm night, in that dark livingroom, we watched history as that one vulnerable man lowered himself one rung at a time until there were no more rungs, then dropped ever so lightly onto the scarred and virgin surface of a place many thousands of miles from home. And more amazing still, that man's voice came to us through the tiny speaker on our television set with words forever etched into our national memory, even into the memory of this entire planet:

"One small step for man. One giant leap for Mankind."

Yes, I remember this well.  Humid night, crickets singing, and men walking on the moon.  A surreal experience that I cherish as an irreplaceable part of my childhood.

To the men and women who made that night possible for us all, that memorable night a mere thirty five years ago, I give my heartfelt thanks. For those who sacrificed their lives to the Apollo Program just scant years before, I give my prayers. And to those men who risked their lives reaching further into the unknown than any man ever had, my gratitude.

Happiest of Anniversaries to the many people who made the accomplishments of Apollo 11 possible.

Posted by Mamamontezz at July 18, 2004 11:45 PM

Yeah ! Thats us, Americans. We did it and have been reaping the benefits ever since. Imagine no satellite tv, no reliable remote telephone, no GPS and no surveilance on our enemies. A giant leap indeed.

Posted by: Jack at July 18, 2004 10:58 PM

Thanks for a great telling of the tale. My memory of it is a bit less clear. My parents have a home video of me taking some early steps (with my foot in one of those small plastic toilets (clean) dragging it around) with the TV broadcasting the moon landing. I was making the really small steps.

He was making the giant leap.

Posted by: Leah Guildenstern at July 18, 2004 11:42 PM

Ooooh be careful Mama, this well written story may be excused by the looney's, the left and the conspiracy theorists as fiction.

It is true, what Jack said, WE ARE AMERICANS AND WE DID IT, like most things we tackle we achieve. For all of the conspiracy theorists who think the moon landing was filmed in some studio, MOVE TO CANADA THE HATERS THERE WOULD SURELY EMBRACE YOU, they embrace MOORE as well as American Cowards, i.e. Deserters

SlagleRock Out!

Posted by: SlagleRock at July 19, 2004 05:47 PM

poker me up

Posted by: poker me up at December 30, 2004 02:43 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?