Climbing the Main
Test Fire

Godspeed Neil Armstrong

 

Neil Armstrong
NASA Photo


 

Very late on the night of 20 July 1969 in a small home in the Appalachians, I watched as a figure moved down a ladder, and into history.  On that night, mankind became a true spacefaring spieces as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the alien world that is our moon. 

To be honest, I don't really remember his exact words.  Neil maintained that he said "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" and I will not dispute him on that.  I also remember that our hosts, who were in many ways the grandparents I never had, remembered the night both for his step and for the fact that it was the latest they had ever stayed up in their lives.  It was a night of firsts, a night for which people shared televisions with those who had them not, or were not able to get to one at that amazing time. 

At that age, it really didn't register to me that Neil Armstrong was a Naval Aviator (Lt. JG) or that he had flown combat in Korea.  I never knew until years after about his plane being hit on a mission, and that he kept it in the air but then lost a few feet of wing to a pole (some say he hit an anti-aircraft chain) because of how low he pulled it out.  He kept it in the air despite that, and finally ejected only when it could be done safely over water -- even if winds blew him back to land where a friend with a jeep picked him up. What is out there about him comes almost exclusively from others, complete with contradictions.

Then again, that's not surprising as he was in many ways a quiet and modest man.  Someone who much preferred teaching to the telling of tales.  Someone who worked hard to build the next generation of explorers, aviators, and engineers. 

Today, he has taken that final giant step that awaits us all.  Godspeed Neil Armstrong. 

LW

A statement from his family:

 "We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Comments