One small step…
Most American’s are familiar with these immortal words. They were spoken on this day, July 20th 1969, by Neil Armstrong as he stepped off the Lunar Module ladder and imprinted humankind’s indelible mark on the surface of the moon.
Though he spoke them in that moment for all mankind, those humble words also revealed much about the man himself. Neil Armstrong, it is strange to say, possessed an enormous amount of humility.
Even after his triumphant landing on the moon, he shunned the spot light. He knew that his being the first man on the moon was the culmination of the efforts of thousands of people. Indeed, he was cognizant that he tread where no man had tread before merely because it was his turn in the rotation.
But those who knew him, especially the astronauts who knew him well, we well aware he was no ordinary man. In addition to being humble, he was courageous, fastidious and never sought the fame that would forever chase him.
A little over a year before his history making step on the moon, during a training exercise, his Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV) malfunctioned and came crashing down to the earth. He tried to gain control of it but with less than 100 feet to impact he ejected as the craft exploded beneath his feet, sending a huge fireball into the air. The ejection was so violent that he nearly bit his tongue off.
For anyone else it would have been a harrowing ordeal and a story worthy of multiple recollection. But his fellow astounded astronauts, who had rushed from their separate assignments to hear the story, found him at his desk, showered and changed into a fresh suit and tie, calmly writing his after-action report as if nothing had ever happened.
These are the kind of men that America raised in the past, humble self-sacrificing and bold. As we paused to remember that extraordinary day in 1969, only 38 years ago, let us believe that we can do it again.