Sunday, July 19, 2009
Occasionally, the world stops.
When the world stops, it is usually for a moment of high drama. Virtually the entire waking consciousness of the world fixates on an event and/or person in a moment that can range from terror to joy with alternating stops in between. If you've been alive since January 1st, 2000, you've seen a few of them already.
In the "way-back machine" of my life though, there is one moment that happened forty years ago tonight that to me surpasses all of the others. It transfixed the world in a way that is hard to fathom; in a way where the entire world held it's collective breath for several days and especially for about twelve hours.
Forty years ago tonight, men successfully landed upon and walked on the moon.
I know, I know... if you weren't alive then it's just something that you've read about in history books. I understand and had the same feelings when I had to learn about World War II in school. Even though our parents had fought in it, it just wasn't "real" to us.
But imagine if you will that for one night, EVERYONE was watching television around the world. I still remember seeing pictures in Life magazine of tribal people gathered around highly primitive TVs and radios to witness the live reports.
For me, my family was situated in the dark living room in Linden, NJ and I was on the floor, eyes plastered on the screen of our console TV set. I had grown up with the space race, totally captivated each time a Gemini or Apollo flight would take off. To actually be there, watching on TV in my living room as two men walked on the lunar surface was almost beyond my comprehension. I still have an old black-and-white picture of the flickering screen, shot with an old Kodak Instamatic camera. I have newspapers, magazines, collectible mementos all put away in perfect condition from this night. I have proof that "I was there!" It was the defining highlight of my childhood.
As a thirteen year old boy, I knew then that nothing would ever be the same and that prediction surely has come to be. It amazed me how quickly the country became blase' about the space program after that. It took another "world stopping" moment during the gut-wrenching crisis of Apollo 13 to remind us all just how extraordinary this accomplishment really was. "Been there, done that" (along with "got the T-shirt") is a prevalent attitude. I don't really know if that's good or bad however, it most certainly is the way that it is.
For me, I look back on this with great joy and fondness. It is a good memory. With the completion of the International Space station and the stride back towards the moon and then to Mars, I hope that others might get excited about the amazing possibilities that we imagine first "in here" before they appear "out there." These things change the world in far reaching ways.
Forty years to the day, my wish on this moonless night is that we may all experience many more amazing and joyful "world stopping" moments in this lifetime. That's one I can sleep on easily tonight.