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Moon landing memories from 50 years ago

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the BCR asked the following question to several area residents. Their responses follow.

What are your memories of July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon?

Joel Quiram

I was 10 in 1969. I remember that time period as both exciting and troubling. As kids, we knew about the social issues in the country that were being driven by the Vietnam war. None of it was talked about during school hours, but we did talk a lot about the space program: what was being done, the importance of it and what it meant.

On July 20, our family sat in front of, and close to, a 19-inch TV, watching CBS and listening to Walter Cronkite. I specifically remember watching Neil Armstrong’s first step and then going outside to look up at the moon, although I don’t remember if I saw it.

When we returned to school in the fall, we were given pencils with Neil Armstrong’s first words, when he stepped on the moon, stenciled across the side. I'm pretty sure I still have mine.

Nedda Simon

Since we had grown up with no television, we couldn’t believe we were even watching these men land on the moon or much less walk there. The launch and the separation of the module were breathtaking to us. We cried, and others admitted they did as well.  Relief, fear and pride made us hold our breath. We yelled and jumped and prayed thanks.

Our kids wanted to go to the pool, so we visited with friends and talked about the great day. Men who had flown in World War II or the subsequent conflicts were so thrilled to hear Armstrong fly the last few feet to landing. We were very proud of those men and women who had done this and in a glorious way, had taken us along for the ride.

Ted Johnson

I can remember the moon landing, July 20, 1969, as if it were last week. I was completely consumed by thoughts of the magnitude of the event involving the components of courage, technical achievement, teamwork and cost that made the "mission" possible and successful.

For me, there was also a spiritual emotion that became prevalent when the words "one step for mankind" were spoken. We, the people, have been blessed with a multitude of advancements in health care and technology, all made available from the research and formulation of solutions to make the Apollo 11 moon landing a success.

Happy 50th anniversary, Apollo 11!

Kristi Warren

Even though I was just 20 years old, I remember being glued to the TV watching this incredible event happening.  It was unbelievable the U.S. could actually accomplish landing on the moon and was almost like watching a science fiction movie on TV.  The most emotional moment was when the astronauts placed the U.S. flag on the moon. So proud to be an American!

Steve Bouslog

My memory of the moon landing is vivid for me because I was enroute home from my grandfather’s funeral. I, along with my whole family, listened to the landing on the car radio. We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Lincoln, Ill., and I did see parts of it on TV, or perhaps it was replays. Anyway, I always associated this event with my grandpa’s funeral.

Earlene Campbell

On July 20, 1969, my 1-year-old son, Brad, and I sat snuggled in our home located on Hidden Lake Drive in Princeton as we watched, on live television, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin making footprints on the moon and gathering moon rocks.

The Captain Video fantasy I had watched on TV as a kid became a reality before my very eyes. It was surreal to watch and listen as Neil said, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," while placing his foot on the surface of what we grew up believing was unreachable territory.

I worried about the astronauts' safe return. I didn't understand how they could possibly lift off from the moon and land back on Earth, but was relieved as I saw them retrieved from the ocean splashdown. Fifty-one-year-old Brad doesn't remember, but he and I are privileged to go down in history as witnesses to "one giant leap" in USA history.

Joe Birkey

I vividly remember that day back in 1969, although it was more of a black-and-white monotone memory. I was only 6 years old at home watching this epic event on a tiny television with rabbit ear antennas, finally something more exciting to watch than Captain Kangaroo!

Seeing that first step on the moon, I was wondering if he would sink into some lunar abyss. From that point on, it was just magical watching this historical milestone unfold before my eyes.

Stephanie VanOrdstrand

In July 1969, our family was visiting relatives in Germany. We were fortunate to be a part of the larger world audience sitting mesmerized watching the moon landing, all of us, together. The memory of the world uniting in anticipation, concern, and then joy always reminds me that we need to dream and work together to accomplish great goals.

Jerry Neumann

Michele and I were glued to the TV watching the landing, and like everybody else, we were amazed that we were witnessing a live broadcast from the MOON.

Also, I was employed at Argonne National Laboratories, a federal research facility,  in 1969 and got a close-up look at a piece of “moon rock” that was sent to Argonne for research. That was a special event.

Sarah Cooper

In July 1969, I had just graduated from college in Wisconsin and moved to New York City.

The weekend the Apollo 11 mission took place, I was visiting family friends who had a summer cottage someplace out on Long Island. Like everyone else, we sat glued to the television, anxious and thrilled about the astronauts’ journey and moon landing. Later, New Yorkers honored the Apollo 11 team with a ticker tape parade.

I actually remember more vividly a wilder celebration a few months later, when I was working in midtown Manhattan. My co-workers and I ran to the windows to see confetti raining down all over the streets. The Mets had just won the 1969 World Series.

Mike Johnson

I had arrived for my tour of duty in Vietnam in April 1969. I was to have been assigned to the Combined Document Exploitation Center in Cholon, doing the intelligence work I had been trained for, but the Center did not need me at that time, so I was assigned to the Security Platoon, Company A, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion. I was issued an M-60 machine gun and was told to get proficient with it quickly.

Along with pulling perimeter guard duty around our camp, we were to act as support if needed to the battalion's reaction force (trained infantry used to respond to reports of enemy activity in the area we were in).

We were called into the field on 19 July 1969, and I was still out there staring down the barrel of that M-60 at 3 a.m. (12-hour time difference from Illinois time) when the Apollo astronauts made their landing.

We heard about it the next day from one of the guys who had a small transistor radio with him. As I recall, the universal response from all of us as we chowed down on our C-Rats was how we wished we could trade places with them.

What a great time for America from their point of view, and what a sad time for America from ours.

Roxana Noble

I remember that before the moon landing, the Space Race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was a big deal. The Soviets had launched the Sputnik rocket, and as a little child, I remember going outside at night to try and see a little tiny moving light that was supposed to be Sputnik.

So years later when the United States was competing to have the first man on the moon, it was a big deal. Since it was summer, I was out of school. Here in Princeton, we gathered around our TV for the launch of Apollo 11 and followed the news every day. I remember Neil Armstrong's name the most.

I don't know if I remember a lot about the newscasts from the actual broadcasts or from the famous pictures of the "footprint" and the moon's surface after the landing. I just remember that at the time, I knew history was being made.

Rick Brooks

On July 20, 1969, I was a social worker in Danville, Pa., in charge of finding safe places to stay during the day for 43 children of migrant workers harvesting tomatoes in the hot, hot, hot sun. Their parents were living in miserable conditions in labor camps in the backwoods. Many of my college classmates were being drafted for the Vietnam war, and the United States felt like an open wound.

The Apollo 11 landing, though, was a fantastic exception to the bad news all around us. Then, as now, the moon landing was literally and figuratively "out of this world."

My parents and I sat in our 1848 farm house right off Interstate 80 and were riveted to the television, like just about everyone else, we thought — except the parents of those little kids I was hauling around every day to foster care. And millions of people around the world who didn't even know what a television was, let alone a rocket or a lunar landing vehicle.

For the four hours on the moon and the round trip from — and back! — to the earth, it was hard to tell what was magic and what was real. Fifty years later, it's still hard to find the right adjectives to describe what was happening and how we felt about it. Amazing. Fantastic. An actuality that went way beyond belief and returned as a fact.

Pam Marsh

I remember when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon. It was such an important event for my family. It was a late-night event, and we were all excited to be able to stay up and watch this historic event. My parents had even invited the neighbors to come over as well.

Tim Kunkel

I remember watching it on our television on the living room floor in our farmhouse north of Granville. At 7 years of age, I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what was happening, but I could tell it was a big deal, seeing how amazed my parents were.

Nita Wyatt

Hard to believe that it has been 50 years since the "moon walk." It doesn't seem like it was yesterday, really. I have changed, and the world has changed since then.

In the summer of '69, I was a college student, attending summer school so I could keep the part-time job I had during the regular school year. I lived in what was considered "approved off-campus" housing. Most college students these days have never heard of something like that.

When I think of the walk on the moon, I do recall where I was and what was happening. We didn't each have a television in our college rooms in those days — there was a shared space in the basement of my residence where we could watch TV.

I, along with other housemates that summer, watched the walk and heard the words. It wasn't like we hear recordings now. The words were scratchy, but they came through and we were in awe. One step for man, one giant leap for mankind — I wonder if Neil Armstrong thought those words would become legendary?

The memory of that day has faded over the years, but the pride we felt at that time is the one thing that I remember well. We all needed to feel that pride. 1969 was a time of turmoil in our country, the Vietnam conflict was still going on, many young Americans were standing up for what they believed in, women were standing up for what they believed. The walk on the moon, at least for that day, brought a sense of pride, a togetherness, a feeling of unity that had been missing.Thank you, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Your names bring back a special memory of those days in 1969 when I was in college and when the world seemed to be a different place.

Judd Lusher

I was living in Ottawa, Ill., with my wife and daughters. I was teaching at Ottawa High School. Early in the summer, there was anticipation that Apollo 11 would be a successful mission. Our two young daughters were excited but were too young to really grasp the meaning and significance of the mission.

We watched the launch that took place on July 16. As news reports signaled the possibility of a successful landing, we watched every newscast. On Sunday, July 20, millions were anxiously awaiting news of the landing. Like most families, we were sitting in front of our television to experience history in the making.

This was something one would never forget. Part of the excitement was waiting to see what the astronauts would encounter on the moon.

Linda Gustafson

I was 22 and working a summer job to help pay for my senior year at the University of Maryland. I remember having been inspired by the inauguration speech of President John F. Kennedy and amazed that his prediction made to Congress on May 25, 1961, that man would go the moon was actually coming true.

Watching this monumental event happen, I was filled with pride for my country and overwhelmed by the scientific work that made this moon walk possible. This represented all of the patriotic things that I believed about the United States and our ability to achieve greatness and make a real difference in the world.

Robert W. "Bob" Hayward Jr.

I was in my seventh year of a 20 1/2-year appointment as the Brown County Extension adviser, agriculture, in Mount Sterling, Ill.

On Sunday, July 20, 1969, my wife, Ruth, our son, Greg (10 years old), our son, Bill (8 years old), and I watched the moon landing on our TV. We were very proud to have the USA astronauts landing on the moon and being the first to do so.

Ruth and I also remember the Russians putting up the first Sputnik satellite in the fall of 1957.

John Young

My first memory of "the space program" began on an evening when my dad and I were watching an old black-and-white television set and the news came across that Russia had launched Sputnik. We stayed up for a couple of hours just listening to what later became known as the dawn of the "space race.”

From that time, through the Mercury and Apollo missions. space exploration always intrigued me. Obviously that new birth of technological innovation, via the space program and space exploration, changed my life as well as the lives of many other young men and women of the 1960s. Many of us became scientists, or at least citizens with scientific interest.

The particular day that we are now remembering, the day of the first moon landing, is one of the indelible memories that one lives through and will never forget. Folks who lived through it will remember when it occurred and where they were at the time of its happening.

My wife and I were attending the University of Syracuse, continuing my study in science education that began on that night of Sputnik. Throughout the evening of the landing on the moon's surface, we were glued to another television set and listening to Walter Cronkite.

I will never forget his expression when that actual touchdown occurred. That time will be etched into our minds forever. Hearing about the event as it was unfolding and being personally captivated by the event, had each of us hoping and praying for three brave men. This same response was what most Americans were doing at the time, regardless of political affiliation.

The few years that were the forerunner of that particular event, gave to our country a burst of technical innovation, unseen by civilization. I'm more than aware that there were people who were very self-centered and who hated the expense of such an adventure. There are always naysayers.

However, most of these folks have benefited immeasurably from that endeavor. Most of our technology that we have today was an offshoot of that investment. The medical miracles, communication abilities, material science and even food chemistry were born from the endeavor.

It wasn't just going to the moon that was important. It was the re-establishment of courage, renewed pride in America, and technological advancement that was introduced because of it.

The original seven astronauts, of whom I have met at least two during my life, were super men with unbelievable courage. They led a generation of young people and put a country on a very firm path of world leadership. They gave needed direction to a generation.

Jim Dunn

Fifty years ago, I remember watching Neil Armstrong take “one giant leap for mankind” while standing outside a motel office in Sioux City, Iowa.

My family was returning from a vacation trip to the Dakotas and Canada, and on July 20, 1969, we’d stopped for the night at a motel in western Iowa. The rooms, unfortunately, did not have TVs (this was the 1960s, after all), so a number of travelers, my family included, walked over to the motel office where there was a television.

It must have gotten too crowded for the manager to conduct business, because he moved his TV set over to a picture window, turned it around so it faced outside, then shooed all of us out to watch from the sidewalk.

We couldn’t hear much of the sound, but at least we could watch the grainy, black-and-white images of that historic event, which greatly impressed 14-year-old me.

One other memory: Earlier, while in Canada, we attended Mass, and the priest asked the congregation to pray for the American “cosmonauts.” Of course, U.S. spacemen were called “astronauts,” while the Soviet Union’s were “cosmonauts.” Being an American, I was slightly miffed by the Canadian clergyman’s slip of the tongue.

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