Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo lunar module “Eagle” on the moon creating some of the most iconic and inspiring sights and sounds of modern times.
Even those who weren’t alive on that day have witnessed recordings as Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon and his proclamation, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” became one of the most quotable passages in American history.
For those who watched the grainy black and white footage live as the first man walked on the moon, or hung on every word of radio broadcasts, the Apollo 11 mission remains an indelible moment in their lives.
Forum readers recently shared their memories of that momentous occasion. Some were with their parents, others were just becoming parents. Some were fighting in the Vietnam War, some were in foreign countries on missionary assignments.
No matter who or where they were, they all remember where they were when Armstrong told NASA, “The Eagle has landed.”
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I had recently graduated from college and my parents, my two younger brothers and I were on an outing to the Milwaukee Zoo and were passing one of the many Cheese Houses along the highway when we heard the landing broadcast on the car radio. It took my breath away to think how dangerous, how exciting an adventure this was.
We were back home in time to watch the broadcast of Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon. Time stood still. I realized I had been holding my breath and crying tears of joy that the astronauts were safe … It was my delight that fall to teach a science unit about the Apollo program to my fourth graders, and I continued to follow the progress of the space program.
Lynn Tkachuk, Moorhead
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I was attending the Boy Scout National Jamboree, with over 34,000 other Scouts and Adult Leaders, at Farragut State Park, Idaho. Neil Armstrong, an Eagle Scout, sent a personal greeting to the attendees of this Jamboree. Although the majority of attendees were not able to see the moon landing live I was extremely fortunate to watch on a TV near the Jamboree Headquarters.
Later, projected on a large screen, the entire group of scouts and leaders sat spellbound watching the scene from the moon and hearing Armstrong’s immortal words. It was an exciting time to grow up, anything seemed possible. Being part of this great gathering and being collectively influenced by the emotional high of seeing the United States of America land men on the moon was one of the highlights of my life.
Mark Hagen, Detroit Lakes, Minn.
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It was my fifth birthday and Dad had rigged up the black and white TV in the backyard with a cardboard box around it to shade the screen. During my birthday party, all of us kids kept peeking in the box to see what was going on. We could tell it was something important by the way the adults were watching it. Of course to a 5-year-old’s eyes, it didn’t keep our attention too long.
Now watching it replayed 50 years later it’s a very moving and impressive accomplishment for all of the men and women who worked to make it possible and what it meant to the world.
Heidi Gackle, Fargo
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After several years of teaching in Williston, N.D., my friend and I embarked on a summer break to Florida to visit my fiancé who had just returned from Vietnam. On July 16, 1969, after learning about the flight to the moon, my friend and I drove to observe the launch of Apollo 11 from Cape Kennedy. We experienced the loud roar of the rockets and saw the flames shooting out, as the rocket lifted off, heading to the moon.
Although the crowd was made up of people from all over the country we were all united in our support of a successful mission. The experience was very emotional for the group. I remember crying, along with many of the others, when the successful lift-off occurred. We were all so proud of the United States and of the accomplishments of our space program.
Dorothy (Eberle) Thompson, Fargo
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We were in the Rocky Mountains, camping. Margie was five months pregnant with our first son, Matt. We came prepared with our transistor radio. We were able to hear the famous words uttered by Neil Armstrong live as he stepped out of the Lunar Module onto the moon’s surface, all the while looking at the full moon on a crystal-clear evening from our campsite.
While we were certainly appreciating the significance of the moment in terms of humankind’s relationship to the universe, we were also anticipating the huge life change for us that was soon to occur with the birth of our first child.
Dick and Margie Bailly, Fargo
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My wife was around six months pregnant with our second son. On the evening of July 20, after having visited my wife (in the hospital), I was glued to the television watching the moon landing. Neil Armstrong was just beginning to descend the ladder, when the phone rang and I was told to get down to the hospital right away as the birth was imminent. I almost said, ‘No, I can’t come yet, I need to see Neil get on the moon,” but I hurried to the hospital and got there just after my son was born very premature. He weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces and spent the next month in an incubator. We were tempted to name him Neil or Apollo, but we had already decided to name him Daniel.
Rodney Venberg, Fergus Falls, Minn.
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My husband and I were newlyweds living in an apartment in San Bernardino, Calif., with 18 other United States Air Force personnel and spouses. True to our nature, we hosted a Moonwalk party on July 20. Among the normal party fare were Moon Pies, those wonderful graham cracker sandwiches with chocolate and marshmallow.
We had a roomful, all hovering around a small TV on a rolling TV stand. Among our guests were my brother-in-law, a nuclear-physicist, who was then teaching at UCLA, and a very nervous friend who kept exclaiming that "if he walks too far, he'll fall off the other side!" It truly was a surreal experience and made all of us as military families very proud of our country.
Mary Lou Dahms, Fargo
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We were living in London. Our landlady, who was Russian, invited all 5 of us up to her apartment to watch the moonwalk. It must have been about midnight. Of the kids, only my older son, who was 8, remembers it. He reports being keenly aware of being American every time America was in the news and loved it that Americans were doing this great brave thing. Mrs. K whispered to me as we set off downstairs again that she was glad the Americans got there first.
Mary Jane Haugen, Moorhead
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I enlisted in the Air Force and left Fargo on July 8, 1969, for Lackland Air Force Base and basic training. On (July) 20, our training crew told us that they landed on the moon and the first man to walk on the moon was Neil Armstrong. I remember lying in my top bunk in our quarters and being amazed at someone being on the moon and how proud I was to be an American and this accomplishment. It was a hot clear night and we looked up at the moon and in awe that there was someone up there.
Larry Lubben, West Fargo
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During the day, I was listening to my personal transistor radio and the news of the man on the moon had everyone in the civil world excited about the technology of the advanced areas of the world. After walking across the Vietnam countryside that day as we usually did, that evening we set up a guard post in the middle of a soybean field on the edge of the jungle.
As I sat on the ground at about 2 a.m. next to the machine gun with the mine detonators carefully placed on the ground beside the machine gun, I remember looking up at the moon knowing people were on it and couldn’t help but wonder, “With the ability to put a man on the moon, why am I doing this?” The next morning we got everything back on our backs and walked back into the jungle. I was 19.
Al Johnson, Glyndon
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I was an Air Force pilot serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. I was given an eight-day temporary duty assignment to Bangkok, Thailand. One afternoon I decided to walk around the city. I came across a large throng of people gathered around a storefront window. At first I thought there had been an accident of some sort, but then as I drew closer it was apparent that they were clapping, cheering and very excited about something.
On arrival, there it was, a small back and white TV set, showing the moon landing. I watched in awe, being a good foot taller than anyone else in the crowd, it was easy to take it all in, until someone noticed me. Suddenly I was swamped with well wishes. It seemed that everyone in the crowd wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me as if I had something to do with landing.
When I was finally able to escape the adulation and find some quiet, I left not just happy at NASA's accomplishment, but also with a deep appreciation for the warmth and graciousness of the Thai people. Without a moment’s hesitation they poured their hearts out to a stranger in their country.
Bob Miller, Casselton, N.D.
If you go
What: Screening of the documentary, “Apollo 11”
When: 2 p.m., Saturday, July 20
Where: Downtown Fargo Public Library, 102 3rd St., N., Moorhead
Info: This all ages event is free and open to the public, (701) 241-1492. www.fargolibrary.org.