If it weren’t for all the focus in the news media today, on the events of forty years ago, I wouldn’t be able to say what I had been doing the evening of July 20, 1969. In my memory, as a matter of fact, it was afternoon, not evening. So I don’t know how much of what I remember is accurate. But I do know that, like millions of people across the country and around the world, I was in the living watching TV and waiting to see the astronauts walk on the moon.
Some people were inspired by the event. Jim Todd, nine years old and 70% deaf, was motivated not only to study science and engineering, but also to overcome his disability. Today he runs a planetarium and teaches children about space. Eight-year-old Jeff Weld and ten-year-old Tom Hockey were also inspired to become science educators. Somewhere I’m sure there’s an astronaut who first got the yearning to go into space while watching the moon landing.
I’m afraid I can’t identify with all that. I had never given any thought to such a career path (I have no idea if I even knew what an astronaut was before July 1969), but I certainly would not have after the moon landing. I could not imagine wanting to do something so terribly boring.
I’ve read that some children were put to bed in the early evening, and then awakened in time to see the first moon walk. I don’t remember going to bed, just sitting in the living room and waiting and waiting and waiting. The astronauts had to check and double check everything. Maybe they triple checked. I couldn’t imagine what they found to check that took so long.
I would much rather have been watching a baseball game. Even a football game would have been more interesting – and for me at that age, football was the epitome of boring. Most of the time the clock was stopped between plays, and when the ball was moving I could never figure out where it was until the bodies piled up on top of it.
But even football moved faster than those astronauts. I honestly don’t remember what I thought when they finally descended to the moon’s surface, other than relief that the long wait was over. Whatever I saw in those grainy black-and-white images, I wasn’t very impressed. I remember also watching the splashdown when the astronauts returned from space, and seeing how they had to go into quarantine before they could be reunited with their families. More waiting!
Now, of course, I remember it with some nostalgia. It’s the only nationally shared event of the sixties that I do remember. Along with certain cartoons, songs, and other cultural expressions that at the time I simply took for granted, it represents a piece of my childhood. Since many of my childhood memories are of being lonely, afraid, bored, or otherwise unhappy, I’m not sure why reminders of that era evoke pleasant feelings of nostalgia. But they do.