JFK, the Moon, and Friends

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November 22, 2011

The biggest news events of my school days were the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Neil Armstrong’s hop onto the moon in 1969. Like me, my friends at the time surely remember where we were and what we were doing when tragedy struck 48 years ago today, and when America’s triumph six years later transfixed the world. I can still see my girlfriend sobbing in the hallway at our junior high school when news of Kennedy’s death arrived. Six years later, gathered in front of a TV at a friend’s house, a group of us razzed another friend for drinking too much beer as crackling radio transmissions from the lunar module described a tense descent but safe landing. Someone joked that our tipsy friend was unpatriotic, which hurt his feelings, which set off even more jokes at his expense. I don’t recall whether we appreciated that Armstrong’s first step in moon dust fulfilled the momentous challenge Kennedy had given the nation in 1962: reach the moon by the end of the decade. For certain we had no inkling that while basking in the astronauts’ achievement 238,855 miles from home, America would never again feel as good about itself.

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