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Posts Tagged ‘Apollo 11’

Today, at Washington National Cathedral, the USA said good-bye to astronaut Neil Armstrong (Aug. 5, 1930 – Aug. 25, 2012). High above the crowd of people there honoring a true American hero in one of that cathedral’s stained glass windows is embedded a moon rock the Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, gave to that church.

Real heroes are hard to come by. The men who traveled to the moon, especially those pioneers aboard Apollo 11, are heroes. And they left a plague on the surface of the moon that reads: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

I never got to meet Neil, but from all accounts he was a reluctant hero. He and his fellow astronauts have always been heroes to me. I wrote a poem years ago about my experience that fateful summer night when Neil left the first footprint in moon dust which was included in River of Stars, one of my books of poetry. I’ve posted it here for all to read:

Apollo 11

On July 20, 1969,

at the Manor Care Nursing Home

in the second floor television room,

two gnarled women and I watched

Buzz Aldrin land The Eagle.

I held my breath

as Neil Armstrong descended

the lunar module’s stairs,

as his left foot stirred the dust

of The Sea of Tranquility.

It was 10:56 P.M. —

long past patients’ lights-out,

my nursing aide shift almost ended.

But none of us left.

“That’s one small step for a man,

one giant leap

for mankind,” Neil exclaimed.

“Humankind,” a resident corrected

as she leaned closer to the TV,

raised an arthritic hand,

“Humankind.”

Beyond the set,

through thermal-plated windows,

I contemplated the moon

and knew that 240,000 miles away,

three men looked up into the black sky

at a blue-green sphere

with the same longing.

Copyright 2002 Vonnie Winslow Crist, River of Stars, Lite Circle Books.

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