Where were you when man landed on the moon?July 19, 2019
There are a handful of moments in history that transcend. When they happen, where we were and what we were doing are memorialized, seared into our consciousness. Depending on your age, that list is a short one, and probably includes the end of World War II, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and, assuredly, Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon.
So where were you on July 20, 1969, when "one giant leap for mankind" occurred?
Former Dubois County Sheriff Terry Tanner was a 25-year-old Jasper resident who had yet to begin a law enforcement career when Apollo 11 took flight. He was working at a Kimball International research and development department in the electronics plant and, like most people, he was captivated by the event.
“The country was still very competitive with Russia with spacecraft developments,” Tanner said, and he was watching continuous news coverage during the event’s duration. “It was a monumental accomplishment for America, and you were very proud of its success.”
Peggy Smith of Petersburg was on her honeymoon at Niagara Falls when the moon landing happened. She said everyone around the world watched it. “It was history in the making. You didn’t want to miss it.”
She also remembers the moon landing being something that the country could come together on during the tumultuous decade that was the 1960s. In 1969, the civil rights movement was winding down, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. She remembers there being just a lot of unrest in the nation.
“It was something we could all come together on," she said.
Larry Lange, 72, of Decatur, Illinois, said he doesn’t remember anything particular about the day except for watching it with his wife, Karen. “There wasn’t too much fanfare going on,” said Lange, who was 22 and living in Vandalia, Illinois, at the time.
Lange does remember how tense relations were with Russia at the time, and the impact the space race had on the country. “We were afraid the Russians were going to get there ahead of us,” he said. “This is when they kicked everything into gear and really ramped it all up.”
Roger Cox was a senior in high school when Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Kennedy on his birthday.
“The space program at that time was a big, big deal, bringing the people’s consciousness out of all the trouble that was going on in the world,” Cox said. “That July kind of helped bring the country together, I think. It was very inspirational.”
Cox, 68, of Huntingburg, watched it on television at his home that evening.
“My first thought was, ‘Is this real or not?’” he said. “I mean, they were sending a signal from the moon; it’s not like watching TV. It was jerky. It looked so foreign that you had a hard time wrapping your mind around it. But when you’re listening to the astronauts talking to mission control, you realized that it was real. That’s a pretty strong signal coming back from the moon to earth, and then to be able to broadcast it on the television signal, that was the height of technology then. It was really cool.
“The moon landing was so far fetched, so Buck Rogers in the 1960s,” Cox said. “To think about a man walking on the moon. You cannot imagine today what that was like then.”
“I just remember watching it on the news and being excited [by] the fact that we were in a race to the moon, and that the United States won. [It] kind of reinforced the competitiveness of the United States. The fact that we like to be winners,” said Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide, who was 15 at the time of the moon landing.
Ervin Williams of Jasper is 11 years old and wants to be the first man on Mars. He recently attended Space Camp. He’s researched the moon landing. “It really inspires me. Neil Armstrong is one of my heroes.”
Former Huntingburg Mayor and Indiana Auditor of State Connie K. Nass was a young married mother of two living in Huntingburg at the time of the lunar landing. She remembers her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son both being awake and making noise. Between that and her excitement over the historic events, she could not sleep all night.
“It was very exciting,” she says.
Her husband, Alan, remembers an additional detail. His wife was upset when Neil Armstrong’s “small step” comment just called it a “giant leap for mankind,” instead of a leap for mankind and womankind.
Huntingburg resident Linda Summers said she remembers the excitement people were feeling across the country. “It was very exciting,” she said. “At that same time, my mother-in-law was very sick and I was helping take care of her, but I still remember watching it on TV.”
Summers, who formerly served on the Huntingburg Common Council, was 29 years old at the time and had two young children. “I remember feeling very proud of our state, because Neil Armstrong graduated from Purdue University,” she said.
At the time of the landing, Margaret Flack was between her freshman and sophomore years of college, and listened to the event on a radio while working at the Jasper pool.
“The memory that strikes me the most were the older people at that time, in their 80s, particularly my grandfather,” she said. “He told me at that time, as he watched it at home, that was impossible. That was all a Hollywood stunt, and there was no way that could happen. I tried to talk to him for a little bit, and finally realized, I’m not going to get anywhere with him. He’s German; that’s the way it is.”
In the 1980s and 1990s when she was teaching science at Jasper Middle School, NASA offered schools a chance to borrow samples of moon rocks to show students. Flack arranged to borrow them for the school.
“It was a dome-shaped piece that was maybe 12 centimeters in diameter, and they had pieces in there,” she said. “I was fascinated with the idea that students could see something from the moon, even if they were fragment pieces.”
She discussed the moon landing with students in her class, including the inventions that came from the program, like Velcro and Teflon. “There are so many things we take for granted today that people forget didn’t exist before the space program.”
Jill Mcaninch of Burnettsville watched the moon landing with her grandmother, who after living parts of her life without electricity and traveling by horse and buggy was excited to see such technological progress.
“She thought it was amazing,” Mcaninch said. “Her enthusiasm was probably why we watched it.”
Mcaninch was 22 years old at the time, and thought when she was older, they could be beamed up into space like in the Star Trek movies.
“I always thought when I got older, I could do that,” she said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
Barbara Brown was 23 years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the U.S. flag into the moon. Brown, who lives part of the year in Marietta, Georgia, and part of the year at her farm in Schnellville with her husband, Ben, remembers it being her uncle’s birthday, and he was worried Apollo 11 wouldn’t even make it to the moon.
“There was so much anxiety, and the older generation had doubts that any of it would ever work,” she said.
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