Forty -four years ago man first set foot on the moon.
1969 was a surreal year. Most of us knew that the wild and liberated 1960’s with all of its hope and revolution was fading. We did not know what was coming next. We believed that the Vietnam war would end soon. Right before the moon landing, Life Magazine ran a cover story about the 125 young men who died in Vietnam that week. They had a picture of each military person who died. I was in the US Navy and thankful that my picture was not there.
On that fateful Sunday my first wife and I decided to go for a ride from Houston to Beaumont on Hwy 90. As the afternoon rolled on, we listened to the progress of Apollo 11 as it headed for the moon. As the LEM got closer to the lunar surface, we pulled off into a rest area and stopped. We listened transfixed to the radio. Neil Armstrong was just like a great airline pilot who was so calm, reassuring, and competent that the passengers were not the least bit concerned. (Little did we know that he had a huge crisis on his hands with fuel very low and no good landing site detected. Neil literally had to “think outside the box” and come up with a wild lateral flight path that saved the day.) Our hearts beat fast and we were on the edge of our seats. Not a word was spoken. Finally we heard that the LEM had touched down and the motors had cut off. We were so relieved and sort of numb also. It had not sunk in yet what a great accomplishment we were witnessing. Later we listened as Neil stepped down from the LEM and put his feet on lunar soil.
We returned home after the landing. Ironically we lived in an apartment off of Waugh Drive in Houston. Our landlord was a very nice man named Larry Waldstrasse. He was an MIT graduate and worked at the Manned Spacecraft Center on the Apollo program.
My first wife decided to take a good nap after all of the excitement. I went to the offices of my employer at the time, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. I joined my dear friend Ralph Wallace III and our supervisor Charles Weaver. We had a television on. We listened with great pride and fascination as President Nixon called Neil and Buzz from the White House and congratulated them on their incredible achievement. We all felt awed and proud. Later we got word that President Nixon had issued an executive order making the next day a holiday for all Americans. We did not have to go to work.
On Monday morning my first wife slept late. I got up early and got in our blue Mustang Mach One. I drove around the area where our apartment was for a long time. I felt so proud and happy. I was sure that this was the beginning of a true space age when humans would go to Mars, etc.
Sadly these great expectations were not realized. The Vietnam war went on for six more years. Some 21,000 more Americans would die. We had Watergate and a national crisis of confidence. Things never were the same.
I still feel incredible pride for that moment. It was one of the high points of my life.