Remembering Apollo 11
Our readers, writers, and staff members recall the moon landing.
On July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Eagle on the moon, I stood transfixed before the television screen with tears in my eyes. The thought came to me that I was on the threshold of a second Copernican Revolution, viewing the Earth from outer space and seeing with new eyes the home where I and every human being lived. The creation mystery had never been so clear to me. I uttered a prayer of praise and gave glory to God, knowing in my heart that from hence on, I never needed to doubt the wedding of science and spirituality.
— Susan Muto, dean, Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality, Pittsburgh
My brother, John A. Wilhelm, was one of the engineers for the company that built the second-stage rocket that launched the astronauts and the LEM [lunar module] on the moon mission. On that day in 1969, he called and exuberantly expressed that all our prayers were answered. God bless America!
— James J. Wilhelm, Lyons, New York
I remember it vividly because my father was out of his mind with joy. He woke me up and sat me in front of the TV to watch, and then placed my small 6-year-old hand on the screen and took a picture (photo below). He said I was touching the future. I think it was the seed for my love of sci-fi and adventure stories — but certainly it was a moment when I saw my father as a man with passion and joy for life and its wonders.
— María Morera Johnson, Mobile, Alabama
The moment was captivating for people all over the world, but it wasn’t enough to contend with the sleepiness of a 9-year-old on a Sunday night. I told my father and brother that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. “I’m going to bed,” I announced.
“What? You’re going to miss this,” my father protested. “It’s a historic moment.”
He couldn’t sell me on the idea of staying up any longer. I made my way upstairs, stopping by the bathroom before turning in. But just as I was “going to the bathroom” one last time for the day, I suddenly revived. I got my “second wind.”
I figured, why not go back downstairs and watch a little more. And so I joined Dad and Charley just in time to watch Neil Armstrong descend the ladder [and] become the first man to step on the moon’s surface.
— John Burger, Catholic Digest contributor
The moment of the first lunar landing, I was a junior in high school. I remember sitting in a friend’s car and holding my breath as we listened to the radio. I stared up at the moon in utter awe to think someone was there, so far away. Later I learned that Buzz Aldrin, a devout Presbyterian, had bread and wine with him and took communion before he stepped foot on the lunar surface. Imagine, the first and only religious event to ever take place on the moon was communion!
— Susan Tassone, Catholic Digest contributor
I was only 9, but I remember watching with my parents on our small, 12-inch black-and-white television. The images were grainy, and it all seemed nearly unbelievable. I remember walking outside and looking up at the moon, convinced that if I squinted hard enough, I might be able to see them. Overall there was a sense of awe about what I was seeing and what had been accomplished by science and human ingenuity, even if I had no way to really understand that.
— Steve Givens, Catholic Digest contributor
I was 10. I recall a very long afternoon through the evening and [then] through nighttime with our black-and-white TV on continually. I got bored, left the room, and played with my pet hamster, mentally composing stories about the first hamster, in a little spacesuit, landing on the moon. When real-time video transmission began, my parents called me back into the family room, insisting that I sit there and witness history in the making, although it would still be quite a while until the moonwalk took place. I recall the low-gravity bounciness of the astronauts’ stride, and also that the TV commentator didn’t quite catch the astronaut’s famous words, “One small step for a man, a giant step for mankind.”
— Daria Sockey, Catholic Digest contributor
My husband, Jim, and I went to my brother’s home for his daughter’s 11th birthday. 1969 was also the year we were married. We watched the moon landing at my brother’s house, and I think we were all mesmerized.
— Virginia Niehaus, Cincinnati
We had a family cottage on Lake Muskoka in Canada since my mom was a little girl (she is now 87). All our summers were spent swimming, fishing, boating, stargazing, and enjoying the simple life. We cooked on a woodstove, and our nightly entertainment was family cribbage tournaments, board games, and listening to Grandpa snore (not so) quietly in the corner!
While we had electricity, we used it sparingly. There was never a television at the cottage except for one night in July 1969. My mother snuck a small black-and-white TV into the back of the station wagon as we loaded up at the beginning of the summer. We knew that history may be made as we whiled away our summer that year.
Imagine our shock when she not only unveiled the contraband, but announced that we would be allowed to stay up to the wee hours of the morning to watch the moon landing!
My sisters, parents, and grandparents watched in awe as Neil Armstrong made his first steps — we shared history — the first man on the moon and the first (and last!) television in our Muskoka cottage.
The TV was packed away the next day. We were too busy reveling in Muskoka life to ask for it again!
— Bill Heil, Marshfield, Massachusetts
I was only 1 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. However, as I got older and the Apollo missions continued, my interest in Apollo 11 increased and led to my interest in actual space flight and my love of science fiction and what might be possible. I’m thankful to the brave astronauts and to NASA for all they have done for our country.
— Fr. Chip Hines, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, Catholic Digest contributor
I was almost 4! I remember my mom calling us in to watch TV so we could see the moon landing. It was a fascinating topic for kids at that time. My babysitter used to make up stories about rocket ships piloted by dogs, and we were always drawing pictures of rockets.
— Barb Szyszkiewicz, managing editor, Today’s Catholic Teacher
I was in utero as I was born that November. My mom kept the newspaper for me.
—Ted Schluenderfritz, creative director, Catholic Digest
I was sitting on the floor in a small room in the basement of a dorm at Fairfield University. There were probably eight or 10 of us in this small room. We were so excited that something special was going to happen, and then it did! How exciting!
— Dorothy Consiglio, North Andover, Massachusetts
I remember my favorite aunt, Virginia Riess, and I were visiting friends, Paul and Verda Thomas, for the weekend. I kept falling asleep (I was 8) as we were waiting for the astronauts to emerge and begin the historic walk, which they finally did. The adults must have awakened me five times before we actually saw the walk. Virginia just turned 90, by the way, and still remembers it.
— Mark Hansel, Cincinnati
We went to Mass early on July 20, 1969. I didn’t want to chance missing any of the moon landing. I was glued to the TV as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin guided the lunar module to a smart, but tension-filled landing on the moon at 1:17 p.m. PDT. I could hear neighbors applauding and cheering, just like me. Six hours later we watched fuzzy, indistinct black-and-white TV images of Armstrong descending the lunar module’s ladder and stepping onto the moon. Later, I went outside and looked up at the moon, and said to myself: There are now footprints on the moon.
— Richard Bauman Catholic Digest contributor