He didn’t use drugs, beat his spouse, shuffle in and out of legal trouble, or get stopped for any DUIs. So, of course, his death only rated one day’s worth of news space. At least, it was dignified, respectful, and factual. Neil Armstrong WAS a true American icon.
Let me take you back to the day, July 21, 1969. I was a young Marine, stationed in Barstow, CA. I was 3000 miles from home and sweetheart, but in the home of a French expatriate who had come to America as a military bride of another Marine.
We were at war, in the midst of the civil rights uproar with the country fractured into many factions. But on that day, all of America stopped long enough to settle in front of their TVs to watch two brave men face the challenge of an unknown frontier as they set down on the moon. And, as if that wasn’t enough, one of them stepped out onto the surface, his life dependent on a self-contained environment suit built by the lowest bidder.
I can hardly describe the feelings I had. Awe, joy, anticipation… Here we were, despite the anguish and despair that seemed to fill the land, facing a new horizon. All around the country, people who only days before had been quarreling, were now celebrating an awesome milestone in Man’s achievements.
My host family and I cheered, toasted the brave men in champagne, kissed and hugged, and generally acted as if every problem that faced our poor battered planet had been solved. The glow of that day lasted for weeks, but sadly faded until it became legend, then myth.
August 25, 2012, that brave Eagle flew beyond his historical boundary into our collective history. Long may his courage and commitment to humankind remain with us. Thank you, Neil, for the dreams and aspirations you gave me that historic day.
The Eagle has landed on his final flight.