There are important or earth-shattering events that occur in our lifetimes that we recall with clarity where we were and what we did. For my folks, the attack on Pearl Harbor was just that type of event.

I remember hearing the news over lunch hour in grade school that President Kennedy had been killed. Also during my lifetime — besides the birth of my three children — the moon launch and 9/11 also are on the list marked in time.

Being the history nut that I am, I’ve been devouring everything available over the past few weeks about the moon mission’s 50th anniversary. I feel like a kid in a candy store. I even learned some things along the way that I hadn’t heard before.

I didn’t know the USSR tried and failed to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon prior to Apollo 11 to grab some moon samples and bring them back to earth before our guys did. I also didn’t know there were some initial docking problems when the lunar module returned to the command module.

We were all glued to the television to watch wall-to-wall coverage of Apollo 11. It was the main point of conversation during our daily pick-up baseball games — the movie, The Sandlot, was my life.

The one moment that really stands out was I recall riding my bike home from my aunt’s house once Neil Armstrong, a Purdue graduate, and Buzz Aldrin had landed on the moon.

The moon was visible that hot summer afternoon, and I stopped my bike to look up at the moon and think how amazing it was that two people actually were there at that moment. It was a major wow moment when the reality of the event hit.

The late 1960s were a turbulent time in U.S. history. War and violent protests were a constant topic on the evening news with Walter Cronkite.

The Apollo program really did provide the country with some respite from the troubles of those days, bringing the nation and the world together for one brief moment.

I’ve visited Cape Canaveral several times over the years, including this past March. One thing that’s stuck out is seeing the control room with the computers that were used in early space flights.

I remember a tour guide saying during a visit many years ago that a Texas Instrument calculator had as much computing capabilities as all of the computers in that room combined. Today, it would be an Apple Watch.

It was a time when people joined together and celebrated this incredible achievement. I miss those days of unity.

Tom C. Doran can be reached at 815-780-7894 or Follow him on Twitter at: @AgNews_Doran.


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