For thousands of years, people have stared at the moon with wonder, superstition and awe. Recently, I asked a Cobb County woman what she was doing when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. She said she was 2 years old. Most people today were not alive when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon July 20, 1969, almost 50 years ago.
I was just lucky to be born at the right time in history. President Kennedy had established a goal in 1961 that America should lead the world in a race to the moon and return safely before the end of the decade. Four hundred thousand people worked on this goal. John Glenn, a Marine aviator, was the first person to orbit the Earth. As he reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, his capsule surrounded by fire, unable to communicate with the ground, he was so cool that his pulse did not change one beat.
Fast forward to July 20, 1969. I was sitting on the couch at my girlfriend’s home and she and her parents and I watched with millions of people around the world as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface. I turned to my girlfriend’s father, a WWII Marine, and said, “That makes me so proud to be an American.” He said, “That makes me proud to be an American, too.”
Being a witness to such greatness has given me an advantage in my career and my life. There is nothing we Americans cannot do. Over the years, I had the opportunity go to Cape Kennedy and watch John Glenn launch in the Space Shuttle. I met Gene Kranz, from my hometown, Toledo. Gene was “Mission Control” on Apollo 13 — his motto was, “Failure is not an option.” With duct tape and determination, his team helped save the crew of Apollo 13 from disaster. Then I shook hands with Charlie Duke, one of the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon. His quote was, “I’m Proud to be an American.”
Daniel F. Kirk