It was more than just “Walking on the Moon”
There have been many big moments in history that I remember with clarity as if they just happened. Yet the biggest was Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Why have we stopped that quest?
By Ray Hanania
I remember many things vividly from history during my life.
The day a friend of mine in the Warren Elementary school playground yelled “The President is dead” as I walked up the sidewalk on Nov. 22, 1963, returning to school after lunch hour. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
I remember the day my father brought home a color television set and we watched Batman in color for the first time, in 1966. Color TV had been around for a few years but unless you had a color TV, you wouldn’t know it.
A decade later on August 8, 1974 Richard M. Nixon announced he was resigning as President of the United States, effective the next day. I was in the U.S. Air Force at an F-111 training base readying for a deployment to Vietnam, that was later cancelled.
There was the Jan. 28, 1986 television broadcast of the Challenger shuttle exploding in the sky creating smoke streams and worldwide bewilderment and disbelief. I was in the offices of the Chicago Sun-Times going over an expense account with one of my editors, Earl Moses.
There was also the night that Princess Di was killed in an auto accident in Paris on August 31, 1997. Newly married, I watched the news reports late at night with my wife.
And yet, the most memorable is the moment Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the Moon, 50 years ago on July 20, 1969 broadcast around 9:30 pm on television in Chicago (July 21 UTC).
Of course, I can’t remember if I took my heart medicine earlier today, or the cancer meds, that I am supposed to take every day like a zombie connected to the pharmaceutical and the insurance companies and to my bank account. It’s all about the money these days.
When I think about Armstrong I think about his famous quote: “That’s one small step for man … one giant leap for mankind.”
I know now from watching Youtube that Cronkite screwed up reporting on Armstrong’s quote. Cronkite said he couldn’t tell the second part of what Armstrong said. The power of the words didn’t mean as much to me either, 50 years ago when I was only 16. The words only took on a powerful life of their own in the years that followed as the moment was drilled home over and over again by the media.
Why was the moon landing so important?
Maybe it had to do with the fact that space exploration was motivated by the inspiring words of President Kennedy in the wake of our fears that the Russians were already ahead of us in the Space Race. They launched Sputnik in the 1950s and that caused great fears. We would practice hiding under our desks for safety in the event of a nuclear attack.
Science Fiction was fueled by stories about the power of nuclear energy and the atomic bombs that had been dropped over Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending the War in the Pacific. A movie about giant ants called “Them!” looks silly today. But in 1954, it was truly frightening.
Fifty years have gone by and I guess I only have a few questions about it all. Why did we stop? Why didn’t we take Armstrong’s moon walk and turn it into a moon colony?
I guess real inspiration died with JFK. The Vietnam War soured everyone. We shifted from seeking great achievements to seeking great profits.
I recently traveled to Dubai and was awed looking out the windows of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 163 stories. In fact, America no longer has the tallest building; our tallest structure, a monument to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, One World Trade Center, is only the 7th tallest building in the world at 104 floors.
What happened to that American spirit of great achievements that made for wonderful memories, pride and drive?
Jimmy Kimmel blames everything on President Trump. But I blame it all on us. We’ve stopped looking forward to greatness, and are frozen in a traffic jam of anger and hate.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. This column was originally published in the Southwest News Newspaper Group in the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers. For more information on Ray Hanania visit www.Hanania.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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