July 20, 1969: Where Were you?

By Robert Mark on July 20th, 2009

moon jetwhineI was a teenager in the 60’s which for me translates into a few key trigger points etched in my mind. The day President Kennedy was shot I was in shop class. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I was off on active duty with the U.S. Air Force wondering what in the heck was happening back in the states. Another of those very clear memories was the night the Apollo astronauts landed on the moon. Since I was at the time stationed at a Royal Air Force station in the UK, it was more than just evening.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins entered lunar orbit in the middle of the night in England. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong touched down about 2 or 3 am as I recall. I watched on a TV in our day room surrounded by everyone else from our barracks waiting to hear the words, “Houston, the eagle has landed.” The room went wild when the words were spoken.

I think back now about what an incredible achievement it must have been using 45-year old technology to send three guys to the moon.

What have we done since that so captured the attention and respect of the world like our space program? For those of you who haven’t heard, the shuttle flights will be ending soon meaning our return to space will be a long way off if it happens at all. To most Americans there seems to be no point. President Kennedy pointed us at the moon not because we necessarily needed to be in space, but to prove we had the ability to muster the minds to make it come together successfully.Rob & Frank Borman

What goals do we as a country have that are as life-spanning as these?

I’ve had a chance to meet three of the astronauts personally over the years – Gene Cernan, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell – and each time I shook the hands of a new member of the team I felt special … because they’d done something special. More than special. These guys had cheated death and been to space and returned to tell me about it. That’s precisely what Frank Borman and I talked about (photo above) over lunch one afternoon in a little New Mexico restaurant. He spoke to me of space flight like another pilot swapping lies over breakfast. Boy that was cool. I felt 15 again.

Rob Mark

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6 Responses to “July 20, 1969: Where Were you?”

  1. july 20 1969 | Fooner Says:

    […] July 20, 1969: Where Were you? – Jetwhine: Aviation Buzz and Bold …July 20, 1969: Where Were you? By Robert Mark on July 20th, 2009. moon jetwhine I was a teenager in the 60’s which for me translates into a few key trigger points etched in my mind. The day President Kennedy was shot I was in shop class …Read More […]

  2. Stephen Says:

    I was in the very back of a DC-8-62 Seaboard World Airlines from Travis AFB on the way to Viet Nam

  3. Brian Lusk Says:

    Rob, I think we must be pretty close in age. For the Apollo 11 landings, I remember my dad taking pictures of the television screen as the astronauts descended the ladder. Of course, the picture turned out pretty badly, but that slide is still special. I haven’t had a chance to meet any of the astronauts, but I did get the chance to visit the restored Apollo Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center. Sitting in the same chair as Gene Kranz was an amazing event.

  4. Robert Mark Says:

    I think you’re WAY older than I am Brian.

    Seriously, I can relate to your comment about sitting in Gene’s chair. What would give kids that kind of “Wow” moment these days? I wondered what their defining moments will be.

    My daughter and said something about meeting a movie star or maybe 9/11, except she only knows of 9/11 what’s she’s heard. She was in 1st grade then.

    The list is small. What does that say about us?

  5. Storm Williams Says:

    I was sitting in front of the TV in Winston Salem, NC with a 8mm Kodak film camera making a movie of the planting the flag. Where did I get such a crazy idea? Cronkite explained how to do it.

    I was 6 at the time and my thirst for space exploration has never been quenched. During that time there wasn’t anything we couldn’t do. Now, our Congress can’t figure out how to pay for a pap smear.

    I know I am getting long winded here and I apologize.

    In 2007, my wife bought me Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on DVD. I watched the whole thing over one weekend. 30 years ago, Sagan had such high hopes and I cried like a child, realizing what we have lost as a country.

    I am very bothered by the lack of education these days. The moon hoax crowd have been especially under my skin this week. Such willful ignorance is a symptom of the disrespect for college education these days. I remember when my parents worked their ass off to send me to an “Ivy League” school but they had to settle with Wake Forest (which is really Ivy League, except with kudzu).

    But now, people sneer at those from our finest colleges. “Oh he is just an ivy leaguer, what does he know?” Uh, maybe how to remove the tumor from your brain? Keep you out of jail when wrongfully convicted? Design a house to be wildfire resistant?

    In the richest country in the world, every child should be able to go to college, healthcare should not be a struggle and there should be a J-3 in every hanger… ok, maybe just one for me?

    It is easy to lay all of this at the feet of Congress, but the problem is us, we stopped demanding excellence. In my job, I will not stop until it is perfect. Even though I may have gone over the time allotted and any further work be on my own time, I want it to be perfect because it reflects on me.

    When Obama asked the adults of this nation to further our education, I was shocked and dumbfounded. It was a long long time since a leader asked me to do something to better the country.

    But would it do any good? This last week, I took the ferry from San Francisco to Vallejo and sat beside a Korean War vet and he told me the story of how the industry of Mare Island disappeared. he just looked at all the abandoned shipyards and said “another example of an idle America.”

    Idle America. We need to get cranking.

  6. Patrick Flannigan Says:

    I was not even close to being alive. Maybe next time I go visit my parents I’ll ask for their memories about Apollo 11, might be good dinner conversation.

    I wish there was something epic; something truly monumental that occurs in my lifetime. We need something positive, perhaps something “bigger than us” to work towards. From where I see it, we’re lacking in that department these days.

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