Apollo 11 Recollections #9

Written by: developer

Apollo 11 Recollections #9 Occupied with Something More Important
I was in the hospital having my fifth child, a boy we named Sam. After I gave birth, the doctor came in to see me. He exclaimed, “Did you see that! The first landing on the moon?” “No,” I said. “And where were you when I was giving birth?” “Oh! I’m so sorry you missed it. It was amazing and historical.” – Ellen Richardson, Elizabethton, Tenn.

An Important Part of My Childhood
I was living in a two-family house with my grandparents who lived on the first floor and our TV went out that day. Mom, Dad, us five kids and my grandparents watched it on my grandparents’ TV. My grandparents came from Italy and were from the horse and buggy days, and I remember them having a hard time with the landing on the moon – they were surprised by how much technology had happened in their lifetimes. We followed the coverage hour-to-hour and they had great coverage of the space program back then. It was an important part of my childhood. The landing inspired me to be a part of the space program. – Mike Fraietta, Boeing

Such a Feeling!
I probably watched the moon landing on a motel room TV somewhere between St. Louis and Florida; that I don’t remember. What I do remember is seeing the actual launch in person. Our parents drove us to Florida on vacation specifically to see Apollo 11 blast off. They woke us kids up at probably 4:00 in the morning to get through traffic from our motel to a beach near Cape Kennedy. My sisters and I were not happy! When we got to the beach, I remember playing in the sand and complaining about the sand flies in my swimsuit, just like every beach we’d been to in Florida. We waited and waited for that lift-off, then when it actually happened I was looking down, distracted by those darn sand flies! But when the sound and force of lift-off reached us, it was such an amazing feeling for a kid from the Midwest who had gone out after dark to watch first the Gemini, then the Apollo spacecraft fly so far overhead as they orbited the earth! – Susan Darigo

History Live
It was my last summer before becoming a teenager in south Louisiana only miles from the Michoud Assembly Facility where the first stage of the Saturn V rocket was built. A summer when the Vietnam War was constant front page news and tearing the country apart, the dream of a young boy was being realized. Being an avid “Star Trek” fan I was actually living to see a man actually walk on the moon. As we sat in our TV room (as my parents called it), I remember my mom saying to me, “You realize that you are seeing history live, something that you will one day be able to tell your grandchildren about.” I knew it then and I realize it even more today that one single event had changed both the world of space exploration and a young boy’s heart forever. – Gary Priest

An Alligator’s Dinner
In June 1969, I had just graduated high school. My dad got me a summer job on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers as a painter with the J.R. Hines, Inc. river transportation company. They haul refined gasoline between various places along both rivers. The boat I was assigned to was the W.B. Barnes, a 125-foot-long tow boat with twin diesel engines capable of 8500 horsepower. Due to insufficient manning, the company asked me to become a deck hand during the summer. This was difficult and laborious work but the money was great! Our mid-July 1969 assignment was taking three 320′ x 54′ and one 150′ x 54′ empty barges down the Mississippi to the intercoastal canel system just south of New Orleans to Texas City, Texas, to load over a million gallons of refined Marathon Oil gasoline and take it to Memphis to off-load. On the way to Texas, we had to go past the Morgan City, La., train bridge. This bridge was too low to take our tow under. However, the bridge pivots; that is, it swings from the middle of the bridge allowing river traffic to pass by on either side. But there was a length restriction in that only 600′ at a time could go by the bridge. Our tow was approximately 1,250′ long; therefore, we had to split the tow. To do this, we tied half the tow to a tree north of the bridge for safekeeping while we took the other half through the bridge pass, tied that half off to a tree south of the bridge, then returned north for the half we tied earlier. While the process sounds easy, the task to do this involves somebody from the tow boat (me!) take a three inch thick rope and a 50 pound shackle in a little row boat to a tree alongside the river and hitch 600+ feet of empty concrete barges to it. Due to the shallow water, the closest the tow boat could get to the tree is about 80 yards. Remember, we’re in swampland south of New Orleans! So I hopped into the little rowboat with the rope and shackle and headed to a suitable tree. The Apollo astronauts were actually attempting to land on the moon while this was going on. I could hear the television from the tow boat and see the glow of it as I was rowing to the tree as it was nighttime on earth in Louisiana. Once at the tree, I had to jump out of the boat into three feet of water in order to get this large, heavy rope around the tree and use a shackle to secure the line to it. With only the television sound to disrupt the quiet of that silent night, I saw a ‘log’ in the water only a few feet from me. That was no log! It was, in fact, a rather large alligator staring at me; just him and me in the water with a tree kind of between us. It was at that point that I could hear from the T.V. that the men had touched down on the moon! Meanwhile, I’m trying to maneuver around the tree and get back in the little rowboat before I became that alligator’s dinner. I am able to tell this story today because, obviously, I made it back to the little rowboat. After we towed all the barges past the Morgan City bridge and went on to Texas City, I asked that I not again be assigned that particular duty of hitching barges to trees as I thought it went beyond what a soon-to-be college student assigned to paint towboat and barges should be doing during his summer of fun! – Mike Brimberry

We Accomplished What We Set Out to Do
There was a lot of excitement and questioning – could we really do it? Is it going to be safe? Could we beat the Russians? For me, as a 21-year-old working with flight crews, I was a little bit in awe, working with astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and John Young and lead engineers who taught me the benefit of working in a group. Even 40 years later, it’s still hard to explain the feeling and atmosphere after the first successful Apollo mission, just knowing that we had accomplished what we’d set out to do. – Larry McWhorter, Boeing (worked on rendezvous procedures)

Awe at a Young Age
I can remember being four years old, in our apartment in Ashdown, Ark., and peering over the couch. At that time, I was barely able to do that. For three days, we watched this coverage. At that age, and at that time, I was a little tired of watching all of this. However, as the Eagle landed and Neil Armstrong said his famous quote, I can remember standing there in awe, even at my young age. – Misty Garland

We’re Onto You
“Moon, We’re Onto You” was the headline in the St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). The previous summer I worked as a college student in Cape Canaveral, went into the vehicle assembly building, watched a rocket launch, DROVE an amphibious launch retrieval vehicle through the mangroves, down the beach and into the Atlantic Ocean (oh, the good old days before the security we have now). Those of us in Florida felt very close to the space program and the moon mission. I still tear up when I think about the moon landing. My career has been in satellite communications so I guess I have always looked up at the stars. Maybe this anniversary will rekindle the excitement about space exploration. I hope so. – Leslie Taylor

You May Ask Yourself; Well, How Did I Get Here?
I grew up on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania. I was 12 and I had the National Geographic moon maps spread out on the living room floor. I studied the landing zone on the map. I watched it all with Walter Cronkite leading the way. I remember how great it would be to work on the space program even though I really had no idea what that meant. As it turned out, I went to Penn State University and became a mechanical engineer. I would go on to become the chief engineer on the High Resolution Mirror Assembly on the Chandra X-ray Observatory and am currently the Program Manager of the JWST AI&T Program at ITT. I have met and worked with an incredible array of scientists and engineers through the last 30 years of what some people would call work. A Nobel Prize winner knows my name. I often think of the song by the Talking Heads – “Once in a Lifetime”. “…you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?” And I still smile and think about a little 12 year old kid, on a farm in Pennsylvania, with moon maps on the living room floor. Watching the moon landing on July 20th certainly changed my life. – Gary Matthews

Attention Grabber
I was in Sagamihara, Japan (west of Tokyo in the Kanto plains). I didn’t see it live, but one of our instructors had a reel-to-reel video recorder (VHS and Beta cartridge formats didn’t exist yet) and those of us attending Camp Zama middle school saw it the next day. It was amazing how quiet we were watching the video recording. I don’t think any of us at the time could grasp the magnitude of this accomplishment, but it sure grabbed our attention. – Roy Steinbock

I was nine years old at my grandparents’ farm in Bernalillo, N.M. I was down in the basement with my family huddled around an old black and white Zenith TV while my mother folded clothes. We were simply amazed watching the first steps on the moon. It was probably the one most profound memories of my childhood that I’ll never forget. – John C. Madrid

Walter’s Eyes
I watched with Walter Cronkite that glorious day. Saw a television man I knew to be somehow staid and to the point, even though I was only 12 years on our Earth, in Seattle. I watched as Walter’s eyes and voice and soul changed before me, as we watched Neil bring it down soft and easy on a new world. As Walter’s reaction filled my soul with the glory. – Irving Fey

Opportunity to Make Dreams Come True
It was my birthday the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon and I turned 11 years old. As a Cuban immigrant, I had taken my first trip out of the United States to meet my family from my father’s side in Venezuela. We sat glued to the TV all day seeing the snowy images coming through the tube. That event gave me a special bonding with America, Patriotism, and the Space program. To this day I am thankful to the country that helped rescue my family from an oppressive existence and whose vision has always given me hope and opportunity to make dreams come true. – Reina Perez

A Radio in the Wilderness
I was probably one of the few who did not witness this event live on TV. I was a 12-year-old 2nd Class Boy Scout attending summer camp at Goshen Scout Camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia on 20 July, 1969. Goshen was, and still is, a large Boy Scout summer camp complex with multiple camps surrounding a large lake. I remember sitting around a picnic table with a group of Scouts and leaders trying to tune in a staticky AM station with the broadcast. When Neil Armstrong stepped off the LEM onto the lunar surface and issued his famous quote, you could hear a muffled roar of cheers from thousands Boy Scouts all around Lake Merriwether…we were obviously not alone in our attempts to tune in on history! Thinking of this today still sends shivers up and down my spine…truly an unforgettable event – and memory. – Russ Dewey

One of My Fondest Memories
On July 20, 1969, I arrived in Boy Scout camp for a week-long summer camp experience. Like any kid in those days, I had followed the space program very closely through Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, and was a bit saddened at the idea of being out in the woods for the lunar landing. I remember listening to “Houston – Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” on a small transistor radio, and was prepared to listen to the actual moonwalk that evening on the same radio. But, they called the entire camp into the dining facility that night, where they had several televisions set up for us to watch. I never knew before just how silent a group of several hundred boys could be. I was in Scouts for many years. That remains one of my fondest Scouting memories. – David Maher

Film May Still Exist
I was only seven years old; yet I remember vividly the whole family gathered in front of the black and white television in my parents’ room in our house in Glendale, Calif., to watch the moon landing. I don’t think anyone spoke as we watched in fascination. All the while my dad filming the television screen with his Bell & Howell 8mm movie camera capturing those images and words. There is a good chance that film still exists in some dusty box or cupboard. – Ricardo Mejia

A Historic Baby Picture
I was not even a month old, and was in my bassinette next to my parents black and white television, in Dearborn, Mich. My parents took a picture of me with the television showing the flag being planted on the moon. – Vincent Musat

A Lesson in Bravery
The Summer of 69. 8th grade going into 9th. We were moving from San Diego, Calif., to Falls Church in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C. for my dad’s new job. Just into the 3,000 mile drive, Flagstaff was a stop for the night … a desert town. The motel sign had a palm tree with a monkey climbing up repetitively in neon. I can remember it just like yesterday. My older annoying sisters were hogging the motel pool that clear evening. Avoiding them … I was looking for something of interest and ended up in the lobby in front of a black and white console TV. I totally forgot my dad had said the landing would occur over our trip. Just then, the image of moon surface was on the screen … it was surreal … a calm came over me and the empty lobby. I couldn’t move to leave to go get dad. “One small step for man, one giant leap (?) for mankind!” If Neil wasn’t scared on the moon, I guessed I could handle a new school. – Gunnar C M Jones

A New Arrival
I was in NYC in the Spanish Harlem. I had only been five months in the States. – Esperanza Bosworth

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Photo courtesy of NASA

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 8).