I was born into a world where Neil Armstrong had already walked on the moon.
It was a fact of life, a way of living established by people who had long ago lived out the wildest dreams of humanity.
So easy to forget sometimes that these adventurers made it to the moon and back with guts, grit and the practical equivalent of a few pieces of metal held together with chewing gum, duct tape and hope.
A few months ago, I ran across the speech President Nixon had ready to go in case of an Apollo 11 disaster where the men were unable to launch back off the moon.
“Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
“These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.”
It wasn’t until I read those words that I really understood what they’d risked.
Of course, they made it home to a hero’s welcome and a place in the world’s history books, splashing down into the Pacific Ocean and forever defining our history with before the moon and after.
I have a short list I call my Happy List. It’s a collection of songs, historical clips, movie moments, journal entries, even YouTube videos that I watch when I need to be reminded that there is good in the world. There is hope. That despite all of the truly horrific pieces of life, that sometimes we actually do come through with something breathtaking.
I like to imagine God laughing in delight with me. Humanity is so weird, so funny. So adventurous.
One of my clips is Walter Cronkite’s anchoring of the moon landing. Here is this grown man – smart, tactful, respectful, always pulled together. He was the voice of reason for a country trying to make sense of where they were at as the world changed dramatically around them.
But when the Eagle touched down, he was once again the voice of a nation and the world – the giddy, unbelieving, laughing nation going, “Holy hell… Jules Verne was right.” Walter Cronkite laughed like a little boy given the keys to the planet of Christmas.
Neil Armstrong – standing on the shoulders of giants – made our dreams come alive, then came home and lived.
I always wondered what he thought about when he looked up at the moon every night.
While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
– the family of Neil Armstrong
Good night, Mr. Armstrong, and godspeed….
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