LEE’S SUMMIT, AUGUST 25, 2012 – On July 20, 1969 I was 11-years old living in Arenales in Buenos Aires Argentina – The United States was not yet in my future – I laid in bed and watched the old black and white TV with ghostly images of Neil Armstrong reaching the bottom of the ladder, saying something that I could not understand, then the translation came through, and at that moment he stepped down and put humanities first footprints on the lunar surface.
Armstrong first stepped on the moon on July 21, 1969 at 0256 GMT (that’s 11:56PM in Buenos Aires on July 20 roughly 8:56PM EST). It was a Monday night, and I had school the next day, but I stayed up till the walk was over.
Now that I speak English and understand the nuances of the language, I am in awe of the simple – yet so powerful – words Neil Armstrong spoke that day:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”
The walk was short, only two-and-a-half hours. Many far exceeded that later. But Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins accomplished for the first time a unique achievement: They united the world for a few hours in a peaceful moment that everyone who lived through it will never forget.
I had no idea in 1969 that I would end up living only a few miles from Wapakoneta Ohio – the birthplace and home of Neil Armstrong. I am one of those nerdy white shirt, glasses and pocket protector wearing engineers: At least I was for the most part of my career. I had every reference material I’d ever need in that thing, including a Pentel mechanical pencil with a 0.5 mm lead, note pad, NEC code book digest, and the need to solve problems.
Armstrong was and still is my personal hero. In the years since the landing on the moon, he kept very much to himself. He worked hard. He taught new Engineers their profession. He ran businesses. What he never did was take credit for his achievement.
Newsmax has a great quote from a rare February 2000 public appearance, “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer, and I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
Armstrong was a true educator. He learned to fly and received his pilot’s license at age 16, he went to school at Purdue University, fought in Korea flying 78 combat missions in his U.S. Naval service, and he earned a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering at USC and became a test pilot.
Neil Armstrong had firsthand experience flying many experimental flying machines from gliders to the X-15, from Gemini 8 to Apollo 11. But his greatest gift was that he taught students not from books but from having been on the cutting edge of technology and all it means to take on the trust of thousands of people who labor to put you in the position to do something no one else has done.
In the 43-years since his historic walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong never forgot he was part of a large team of focused individuals who broke barrier after barrier to give him the opportunity to make magic happen and actually put the Eagle and then the Stars and Stripes on the surface of the moon. He didn’t do it for glory. He didn’t do it for history. He did it for humanity and the shear desire to get something that seemed impossible done; and done well!
It is hard to lose a childhood hero.
It is sad to see someone so humble and yet so great; quietly slip into the long night.
It is amazing to have lived at a time when America did amazing things not just for American’s but for Humanity in general. Yes, it was part of the Cold War and it was fueled by the desire to be the best – but I ask you: What is wrong with that?
“…Tranquility Base… The Eagle has landed.”
May God Bless His Soul!