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My Brush with Greatness


As a senior in High School my family was stationed in Ankara, Turkey. This was in 1969-70.

In the Spring of 1970 the astronauts from the first moon landing – Neal Armstrong, Michael Collins,
and Buzz Aldrin were on a goodwill tour and came to Ankara. Our student government leaders went
to the Principal and asked if we could have a half-day off so that students could go downtown and
watch the parade that was being given in their honor.

We were told no, that arrangements were being made to have the astronauts visit the school.
We had good reason to distrust the school administration – so we went to some of our fellow students
whose fathers were Generals or Admirals who would likely know whether any such plans had been made.

As we suspected – we had been lied to. So… we began a sit-down in the lobby of the school – with more
students joining us every minute. The principal and vice-principal tag-teamed in coming out to scream and
yell at us and to assure us of the dire consequences of our impertinent actions. I’m sure there were mentions
of hippies and commies – they really were quite the pair. After about two hours of this suddenly a number
of school busses pulled up  – and all the students – elementary to high school – were loaded on the busses
and taken to the hotel where the astronauts were staying (one of the Generals had arranged it).

They came out and greeted us, shook hands and signed autographs. I remember that many of us picked up
the little ones and put them on our shoulders so they could see. This was at a time when the space program
and the astronauts were a BIG DEAL – John Glenn and company were larger-than-life superheroes.

When there was a launch or a landing – we often got a day off school to watch on TV at home. I say that
to say this – what blew my mind that day was how small they were – short and slender – and dressed in
business suits! Like I said – in the public imagination they were huge – and you really can’t tell on TV
– plus we usually saw them in their massive space suits. After the fact it made perfect sense – the Apollo
craft were not exactly spacious.

Anyway – this has remained a strong memory for all these years – the day
I met the Apollo 11 crew and engaged in my first act of civil disobedience!
 Brad B

Brad, good one - thanks.


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