On this day in 1969 the newspaper headlines spoke about a massive infantry invasion near Saigon in North Vietnam. 47 enemy combatants were killed with no American casualties. On the same day, the newspaper reported that in the days before Senator Ted Kennedy was pulled from his submerged car and Mary Jo Kopechne, age 29 drowned at Chappaquiddick Island while she was a passenger in a car being driven by the senator. The scandal would haunt him for the rest of his life.
In Bienville Parish, the school board signed off on a desegregation plan for integrating black and white schools. Along the Red River, Shreveport’s famous “shantytown” of homeless and indigent occupants was demolished. In other news, plans to implement an anti ballistic missile treaty with the Soviet Union were stalled in the midst of the height of the cold war. The world was awash with war and possible nuclear annihilation and political scandal and the churning war against the “establishment” by the hew “hippie, free love” movement. America was in turmoil! Soon, oil prices would escalate thanks to the newly formed OPEC and the economy would tank in the aftermath. One of the casualties would be the Apollo space program.
But on this day, America had landed a man on the moon. America had succeeded in putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade. We made it by 5 1/2 months!
I was 14 years old and managed to keep my eyes open long enough to watch Neil Armstrong step off the Lunar Excursion Module onto the surface of the moon at around 2 A.M central time. The dark, shadowy image on my television was difficult to discern, but the enormity of that moment was not. I have shared before how my father and I shared a love for the space program. And, the prospect of one day going into space and walking on the moon was always my greatest dream. But here, in a moment of incredible historical significance, all of the bad news of the world around me was vanquished by the deep appreciation of our combined, unified accomplishment as Americans. For a brief moment, millions of Americans put aside their differences and rejoiced in man’s ability to reach out for the unknown.Read the rest of this entry
45 Years Ago . . .
With bleary eyes I glanced at the clock. Almost 4 AM and somehow, I was still awake. I had just turned 14 and I was determined to watch the live broadcast of mankind’s first step onto the surface of the moon. What would happen? Would he sink in the lunar dust? Would a lunar xenooctopoid grab his leg and pull him under the surface of the lunar soil? Would his spacesuit explode in the vacuum and splatter frozen blood and guts all over the black and white camera poised to show the world this most historic moment?
My nephew, Keith, had decided to stay up with me. He was only 10 at the time and he was not happy about being awake at this early hour. My father, a raving space enthusiast, had gone on to bed. After all, he had to work the next day and all I had to do was sleep in on a hot, lazy July morning.
The year was 1969. The world was on fire. War protests raged across America demanding an end to the Vietnam War. Rock music filled with the raucous, explosive anger of millions of young adults vibrated across our radios. Angry women marched in the streets demanding equality. Fury still washed across the country from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and racial tensions were at an all time high. And, most teenagers and young adults were high on acid, heroin, marijuana, speed, quaaludes, opium, hash, you name it. Our new president, Richard Nixon would soon be rocked by a political scandal that would force him out of office. Communism in the guise of “socialism” was sweeping across the world from the USSR and into Eastern Europe, South America, and Cuba. Every single minute of every single day, I lived under the threat of instantaneous mutual nuclear annihilation. My future was bleak. Would I end up in a body bag on the other side of the world? Would I die in a race riot or war protest? What kind of world was I inheriting?