Friday, 17 July 2009

"One small step" forty years ago



Forty years ago, the first human set foot on the lunar surface. To celebrate this milestone, NASA has released digitally-enhanced video of that historic landing. Here is an excerpt from my second memoir, Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), that tells of my family's experience of that exciting event.
It's an interesting fact that human beings remember exactly what they were doing during the times when historic events happen. July 20 started out as another bright Sunday morning. Diane, Linda, and I spent several hours at the creek, picking saskatoons. We saved most of those purple berries but none of us could resist eating a few. "I'm just making sure these are ripe," we told each other.
When all three of us had filled our small pails, we walked home for lunch. Diane and I had a difficult time keeping Linda, who was only four, from eating all of her berries, especially since we struggled with the same temptation.
The town was ominously silent as we headed home. The sky became overcast and not even a bird sang. Nobody was on the streets or in the yards either. "They must all be inside watching TV," Diane remarked.
I agreed and wondered aloud, "It's so eerily quiet. It's like the whole world is holding its breath, isn't it?" Doubtless, everybody was waiting for the historic moon landing to happen.
Our family ate the saskatoons for dessert, topped with condensed milk and sugar. The combination of flavours was delicious and we savoured every mouth-full.
Then we settled down to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing coverage on television. Even though the set's contrast was failing, our eyes remained glued to the screen. Walter Cronkite appeared to be on every channel and his reporting gave us the feeling of actually being at the Houston mission control.
As we watched the newscast, various experts speculated regarding what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would find once they landed. NASA installed large pads on the Lunar Module's feet in case the moon was covered in fine dust. Some scientists speculated that the lunar surface would have collected approximately fifty feet of it over the four billion years of our solar system's existence. Only the most optimistic people believed there might yet be alien lunar life.
The Lunar Module separated from the command module and began its descent to the surface. We watched eagerly as we saw on the screen how the moon came up closer and closer. As some scientists had predicted the ship might crash on the surface, I silently prayed it would land safely.
Finally the moment came and we heard those famous words, "The Eagle has landed." Humanity's first voyage to another world was a success. Then we waited as Houston made the decision to let the astronauts leave the Lunar Module. We felt thrilled as we watched Neil Armstrong descend the ladder and to hear him say, "That's one small step for man; one big step for mankind."
All of us cheered except Linda who was too young to comprehend this momentous event. We tried to explain to her that two men were walking on the moon but she still did not understand. At that age, everything is both magical and possible so why shouldn't people be on the moon?
In addition to this account, I wrote reminiscences of many other cultural events of the sixties. While I was in Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind and at home, these milestones had a profound effect upon me. I feel certain that those of us who lived through those turbulent times, and who actually remember what happened then, will enjoy my memoir. At the moment, it can be purchased for $25.00 U.S.D., plus $8.00 for shipping and handling, by sending a PayPal payment to Bruce Atchison.