Daily Archives: July 20, 2019

50 years

I’ll leave it to those more eloquent than me to write paeans about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

And I’ll link an article later.

On this day 50 years ago, I had just turned eight years old.  Space launches were a big deal in the late 1960s, and I remember watching almost every lift-off . . . the thrill of the countdown, the excitement of all that smoke from the launch pad, and then the amazement of seeing that Saturn rocket take men toward outer space.

July 20, 1969 was a Sunday.  I don’t have any recollection of the afternoon, of the live broadcast on all three channels (imagine that!) of a simulation of the moon landing.

But I do remember being ready for bed after church that evening — we attended Fifth Street Baptist Church in Hannibal, and Sunday included two services — but my parents wisely telling me to stay up and watch the telly.  “You will want to remember this, to tell this story some day,” they said.

So I’m telling the story.

Thus it was that on this day, 50 years ago, my eight-year-old self watched Neil Armstrong take a step onto the moon.  And heard those immortal words:  “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

I don’t recall how long I stayed up that evening.  But I do bless my parents for requiring me to stay awake to see this world-changing moment.  As I age, the memory of this moment, now distilled through 50 years and sentimentalism and my own tendency to revere life-changing moments, reduces me to tears. As it does right now, as I write.

I was dimly aware of the turmoil of the last three years of the 1960’s.  I remember asking my parents about Viet Nam and death counts on the news, about Bobby Kennedy, about who they were voting for in the 1968 election (they wouldn’t tell me, but Mom said “I think our votes will cancel each other’s” and I’ve always assumed Mom voted for Humphrey while Pop voted for Nixon), about why students were killed at Kent State.  I was a precocious kid.

And easily moved, too.  The Olympics opening ceremony made me cry.  So did “My old Kentucky home” at the Kentucky Derby.  Still does. Still do.

So the memory of the moon landing and what happened 50 years ago today is emblazoned in my formation.  Thanks be to God.