Saturday, July 21, 2012

"The day that I felt the proudest to be an American"

Apollo communications chief Ed Fendell:
The first thing you have to remember, I don't know what you've heard from other people, but most of us didn't believe we would land on Apollo 11. Have people told you that, in their opinion, that they thought we would make it the first time? I didn't believe we would ever land the first time, but we did. Okay. And when it started getting down close, I don't think I was touching my chair. I actually believe I was levitating somewhere over that chair. That's the way I felt. I know I wasn't levitating, because I can't do that, but that's the way I felt. It was so intense that I don't think most people really fully realized what we did. I know I didn't.

I went home and slept for a couple hours, I got cleaned up, and I was going back to work and I stopped to eat some breakfast. And between Monroe and Edgebrook in those days there was a Dutch Kettle, you know, one of these little coffee shops with the round stools.

I walked in there, and I knew we had landed on the Moon, and I was proud and all that and everything, but because I wasn't out there with the public when it all happened, I really wasn't that jived as to what the real effect was going on in the world. You know what I'm saying? You know, there were people going crazy all over the world. You'll see these pictures on the movies and the newsreels, you'll see thousands of peopel standing in Times Square watching this stuff and so on, you know. So you weren't into all that, you were so intense in what was going on and what you were looking at and so on.

I'm sitting there reading the paper and so on, and two guys walk in and sit down on the two stools next to me. They are from the Exxon or Enco or whatever the gas station was down at the corner down there, and they're in their gas station clothes and they've got the grease under their fingernails and so on. They were a little bit older. They sit down and they get their coffee and they're waiting for their breakfast. They start talking.

One of them says to the other one, he said, "You know, I went all through World War II. I landed at Normandy on D-Day." And he said, "It was an incredible day, an incredible life, and I went all the way through Paris and on into Berlin," wherever the heck it was he was talking about. He said, "But yesterday was the day that I felt the proudest to be an American."

Well, when he said that, I lost it. It all of a sudden hit me as to what we had done, you know. And I just threw my money down, grabed my paper, and walked out and got in the car and started to cry.
Rocket Men, p. 261

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