“Wake up” he whispered while shaking me “it’s about to happen.” I shook off sleep looked around the room. It was summer vacation why was I being awakened? I looked over at Matilda who still slept unaware of the importance of this wake up call. I ran down the hall and into the family room where I could hear the television on and those anticipatory words “ten, nine, eight”. I ran to sit next to Buck. The hairs on my arms were standing at attention and I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Buck looked at me and said “Gladys we are watching history. These guys are going to the moon. The MOON! Do you know how important that is?” I did and I didn’t.
I started watching manned launches when they began televising them. Buck was a space nut. He would build models of Gemini and Apollo capsules. He had a map of the solar systems hanging on the wall and would explain the different planets and how they relate to our planet. He would go into details about how Sir William Hershell was the first to discover the planet Uranus and how it had moons much like our moon orbiting it. Then he would explain Saturn, the planet not the car, and how its rings were discovered by Galileo. He would spend hours with me, his little sister, whom they found under a rock, teaching and explaining one of the things he loved. His lectures were never really lectures they were fascinating. So when he asked me if I knew how important this launch was, I only knew how important it was for him.
We both ran in and drug Matilda out of bed to watch. We didn’t want her to miss this, it was just too important. “Matilda GET UP! You’re going to miss this.” Matilda rose up her head and reluctantly shuffled into the family room with us just in time to hear “lift off” and then to see the fiery rocket blast off into the early morning Florida sky. We sat on the floor in front of the television mouths agape. The information officer at NASA, Jack King, told us what was happening in a play by play commentary aided by Buck’s own explanations. Matilda watched as the Apollo separated from the Saturn rocket and that was when Matilda wandered back to bed. Buck and I sat and watched and soaked in every aspect and nuisances of the NASA control room and what the commentators were telling us.
Four days later after watching Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley and our local news reporters we were saturated in all things Apollo 11. It was a hot west Texas July day. We should have been down playing in the creek or at least out climbing one of the Mulberry trees in our front yard. We were neither. We were firmly ensconced in the forbidden “formal living room” watching the big Zenith television. The very one that was reserved for special occasions. Walter Cronkite was on the screen and he was visibly as excited as we. We watched as the spider shaped landing module separated then twirled and left the mother ship. We held our breaths as it made its descent. Then we heard Neil Armstrong announce “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
I looked up at my big brother who was riveted. I realized I had been holding my breath and I let out a sigh. He looked over at me and grinned one of the biggest smiles of his life. “We landed on the moon” he breathed out. Then he said it again much louder. We spent the rest of the day glued to the television for any updates while he explained the whole process to me.
Today I watch as everyone talks about that memorable day forty years ago when man landed on the moon. This day holds an additional personal notable remembrance. It marks the special bonding and admiration that was formed between Gladys and Buck.