Today I lost a hero.
I was five years old and my family was camping on the Colorado River in Marble Falls, Texas, on property that my grandfather owned. It was a summer tradition that was continued into my adulthood. I can hardly remember that moment, since I was so small, but I remember my parents talking about that particular lake trip for years. The trip where we sat gathered around the black and white portable TV that my grandfather had brought along just for the occasion and watched along with the rest of the world, what could arguably be called, the most defining moment in modern human history. While I only have vague memories of that day, I do remember watching subsequent lift offs, and splashdowns, on our trusty Zenith console TV, or at school. This is how my love affair with the space program was born. I begged posters and lunar module models from my brother. One of my most memorable family vacations, was a trip to the Johnson Space Center, were we got to see the places where the Lunar Astronauts trained, got to see a recovered capsule and got to walk the sacred ground of the real Mission Control. I wrote a report for school on the Space Shuttlebefore other students even knew there was a shuttle program. A few years later, when I came to Florida to meet my future husband’s family, I got to go to Space Kennedy, and though I only got to see them through the windows of a tour bus, the launch pads where so much history was made, were an awe-inspiring sight. Even now, I’ll still get up in the middle of the night to watch a launch from my front yard, even thought the Cape is nearly a hundred miles away. Those match sticks rising up into the air, a testament to what man can accomplish when the spirit of adventure takes over.
In this day of flashy rock stars, arrogant athletes, and outrageous behavior, I wonder. Will there be huge mobs outside the gates of Space Kennedy holding a candlelight vigil? Will there be imposing mounds of flowers outside his home? Will the streets be filled with teary-eye, adoring masses as his funeral procession passes by? Probably not, and the humble, unassuming Neil Armstrong would want it that way. True heroes are remembered in quiet reflection. Each of us contemplating how this man’s accomplishments touched our lives. I never met Neil Armstrong, yet I feel a deep personal loss. One of the few men who can truly say that they have touched heaven, has gone there to stay.
As a footnote, how appropriate it was for NASA to honor such a rare human being on the date of a blue moon.