The United States celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings July 20.
The landing was an event shared by people across the world, St. Maries residents tell very different stories about where they were and what they were doing when they learned of the historic “giant leap for mankind.”
The Apollo 11 mission touched down on the moon’s surface July 20, 1969. Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins entered the history books after completing the first manned landing on the moon. The event was televised live, and people across the world celebrated the accomplishment as they watched Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin take mankind’s first steps in the lunar dust.
Many military veterans were not able to watch the moon landings live, as they were actively deployed during the Vietnam War. Among these was Jim Shubert, who served on a supply ship replenishing carriers and cruisers along the Vietnam coast when he received word of the successful mission.
“We heard about it on the news,” he said. “The skipper of the ship announced it over the ship’s intercom, that they had launched a manned flight to the moon. I was really proud that my country could do something like that. It was really a break from all the war news from Vietnam at the time.”
Mr. Shubert said during his service around the time of the moon landings, he replenished the light cruiser USS Providence – the same vessel on which Bob Grieser served, though the two had not met at the time. Mr. Grieser said when the landings were announced, he had just rotated back from the Pacific and was on leave in San Diego, California.
While he said he has little interest in space exploration, he appreciated the accomplishment’s importance.
“I thought it was pretty neat that they landed on the moon,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, one St. Maries alumnus said he learned of the moon landings through news broadcasts and newspapers.
That news, however, happened to be in Spanish.
“On July 20, 1969, I was in school in Madrid, Spain,” Jim Broyles said. “I have somewhere all the articles on the landing from that time in Spanish. I think my reactions was, ‘I can’t believe it,’ and it’s almost more unbelievable because here I was, absorbing it outside my life in St. Maries and in Spanish.”
For Richard Schumacker and his wife Lana, the news came while they were attending another out-of-this-world event. The pair had traveled to a packed concert venue to attend a concert from legendary American singer and pianist Liberace, who took time out of his planned set to honor the astronauts’ accomplishment.
“He played a lot of songs, but then during the performance he came out and said, “this is a tribute to the astronauts that are now on the moon,” Mr. Schumacker said. “He played ‘The Impossible Dream,’ and I swear to you there was not a dry eye in the place, and that was a few thousand people.
“You had to be alive to know the national pride that was present with everybody,” he said “We all stood there together, and it was an experience my wife and I won’t ever forget.”
Mrs. Schumacker said the moon landing was extremely meaningful to her, both on its own merits and in the context of history. She was a first-year high school teacher in 1969, which was the same year in which both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, and she recalled leading her class through both events. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and protests against the war were taking place across the country.
She said the moon landing was a fitting capstone on one of the most significant years in her memory.
“You look back at life, and you realize there are certain things that are extremely memorable. If you were to pick one year in your life that would give you so many symbolic things to remember, I can’t think of any year that would be more symbolic.”