MOON LANDING JULY 20, 1969 ~ Oakland, We Have a Problem


Memories and time are irrevocably entwined within the tapestry of our experiences. In my own being there seems to be neither time nor reason affecting the sporadic memories which take place within my brain’s recall facilities. Neil Armstrong’s death on August 25th straight away took me back into what I thought were keenly detailed clouds of time – Moon Landing Day, July 20, 1969. Who could forget all those details and emotions?

Me, that’s who. It wasn’t until I saw a replay of the entire two hours spent on the moon, did all the details come flooding back. For instance, I totally forgot two men stepped onto the moon for the two hour visit: Neil Armstrong first, then Buzz Aldrin.

Therefore, with a newly refreshed memory, and no more thoughts of speaking clichés such as, “I vividly remember every detail!” Let us travel back to 1969.

What was that phrase the Astronauts always radioed back to Houston in times of stress?

“Houston, we have a problem.”

On that upcoming day, we certainly had a problem in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, where we resided.

Actually, we had TWO problems: First of all, our family was on a ten-day tent camping venture in Stokes State Forest on the Sunday before the moon landing which scheduled around midnight.  The trip was a slow twenty three point six miles and forty-three minutes from home. Secondly, we hadn’t had a working (black and white) TV for almost two years.

The approaching landing had slipped our senses, but at breakfast we suddenly remembered the upcoming event. What were we to do? After a discussion amongst ourselves and our four young children, we decided we would drive home, buy a used black and white TV set, and watch the greatest moment in scientific history.

“Don’t think you’re going to be watching non-stop TV from now on,” they were warned. “We will strictly limit TV programming, and one or both of us will always watch with you.”

Our oldest, somewhat over nine years of age, remarked, “Well, nothing has changed, has it?”
We were quite aware the children, secretly caught up on some TV watching at friends’ homes. However, they were totally agreeable to the rules.

In the early afternoon, we arrived home and I called up a friend who owned a TV repair business. He asked me to bring the broken ten inch set with me, which I did. Carrying the wounded set, I arrived at his place of business. Quickly he checked out the old set, which my father had bought for us because he didn’t want his grandchildren to be deprived.

Our friend, whose name is now lost in my mists of time, cheerfully said, “It’s easily repairable.”

Giggling a bit, he replaced a tube I had once pulled out and dropped on the concrete patio when I left the house, about two years ago.

“I remember you used to pull the tube so the kids couldn’t watch when you were out,” he said. Because he was so amused, he just charged me for the tube.

“Remember to tell your dad,” he said.

“Oh, he didn’t know about the tube.”
            My friend shook his finger at me. I blew him a kiss.

So, home, I came, and everyone was delighted.

My dad happened to call just after I arrived home, and was pleased to know we would be watching. “I’m so glad my grandchildren will be able to watch this grand event on MY gift,” he gloated. Truthfully, I never told him about the two-year hiatus.
            Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to attempt an actual manned moon landing. With only thirty seconds worth of fuel remaining, the Eagle Capsule carrying the two men landed on the lunar Sea of Tranquility on July 20, 1969, at 4:17 EDT.

Armstrong radioed: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The entire control room in Texas  erupted in elated cheers, laughter, screams, dancing, hugs, and tears of joy. We were suitably impressed.

Later that evening, the children went to bed, and we awakened them about an hour before the scheduled landing.

            With great anticipation, the six of us watched the events leading up to the Main Event, although our three year old finally fell asleep again.

            Just before ten pm EDT, we were watching shadows and echoes of shadows, and strange electronic patterns as Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Apollo 11, Eagle Capsule at 10:28 pm EDT.  In those days of yore, TV sound and reception weren’t as clear as it is today. Briefly, we were all convinced the strange shadows tumbling across the screen were extra-terrestrials! However, we rapidly changed our minds. Seeing an upgraded video last night, I once again saw the other-worldly shadows and shapes. The commentator then spoke of and showed a “cleaned up” modern version, and said the original reception was definitely other-worldly.

            Neil Armstrong took a few steps down a small ladder, hesitated for several seconds on the bottom step and at last he stepped on the lunar surface. He was closely followed by Buzz Aldrin.    

            He spoke with obvious emotion: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  

            After Neil Armstrong returned home, he was asked exactly what he had said. He didn’t remember, but with the help of his wife was able to decipher the exact words from the garbled recordings.

            What a great day in American and planetary history it was!
            The older children and my husband and I watched the rest of the two hour visit. There were imprints on the moon’s surface, two flags on poles, which fluttered. During the television replay, I, for the first time, noticed an astronaut’s arm shaking the pole to make the flag flutter.

            Then we watched them enter the capsule and head into space to interlock with the Apollo 11 ship piloted by Michael Collins, which would return them to Earth.

            It’s fascinating to me to have heard the astronauts speak of their mission. Their words were sincere, and the message was always the same: “We were backed by the engineers, scientists, construction workers, auxiliary staff. They sent us to the moon. We were just the passengers.”




            And often, the astronauts would add, “And don’t your forget that, folks.”

            I am sure that Neil Armstrong will send me a salute when I way, “God bless America!”


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