Forty-three years ago today I was with my family (minus Dad, who was at work at IBM’s facility at the Kennedy Space Center) on the Eastern shore of the Indian River approximately three and a half miles from Launch Complex 39 when the Saturn V launch vehicle carrying Apollo 11 left Earth for its historic trip to the Moon:
I was seven years old. This was the seventh launch of a Saturn V that I had seen, and I was old enough to really grok that this time, we were going to land on the Moon! The crowds were incredible, far larger than for any previous launch. Some huckster was selling gray spray-painted coquina rock as “moon rocks” to moronic tourists. One of our group with a large pair of binoculars yelled out “They’re getting ready to launch, Edna! I can see the guy with the match!” Around us, dozens of cameras were pointed at the rocket. But that’s the first time I can recall where the expression “the excitement was palpable” was literally factual. It was like a force of its own.
I don’t have a lot of memories from my early childhood, but this I remember. We were reaching for the stars.