The Heroes In Our Day!

In 1969, Apollo 11 went to the moon. On board the flight were Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins. It was Armstrong and Aldrin who traveled to the lunar surface to become the first two humans to step onto a celestial body other than Earth. Collins remained in the command module…the tin can that had delivered them into orbit around the Moon and would ultimately deliver them, with the expertise of Collins, the pilot, back home…back to Earth. For now, the tin can, with Collins aboard, continued to orbit the Moon, while the two other men stepped into history below.

Davey and I took turns looking through the telescope. Through the eyepiece, the bright yellow cratered surface of the lunar surface peered back. “I think Armstrong and Aldrin are getting way too much of the attention…it’s like Michael Collins doesn’t exist.” Davey agreed. “We should write a letter to NASA…tell them that the mission will not succeed without Collins piloting the command module for its rendezvous to dock with the lunar module, then bringing them all home.” Well, we didn’t really articulate our words that well…we were 7!  But they do encapsulate the essential features of our concerns!

My mom gave us some paper and a pencil and we proceeded to lay out our “concerns” across and down the page. “TO WHO IT MAY CONCERN…” We’d heard that phrase somewhere…it sounded official! “Whom honey…it’s ‘whom’ it may concern.” my mom interjected. “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN…” We constructed our argument…laying out the importance of a pilot; not just any pilot, but a pilot who knew where the Moon was. There was no stopping along the way to ask for directions. Like a guy would do that anyways! “Heh…heh…that’s a good one…put that in there!”  We were especially impressed that Collins would be navigating across 480,000 miles to the Moon and back. We included a picture we had drawn with crayons to illustrate the vast distance. Success was not based on happenstance…it required expertise. My mom folded our completed letter and picture and placed them in a stamped envelope, which we had addressed to “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN c/o NASA.”

The next day Davey and I stepped into the tin can parked in the driveway. My mom sat in the pilot seat. She had offered to drive us to the post office so we could hand deliver our important letter directly to the federal government, lest there was a conspiracy to silence our concerns. We made it safely to the post office and handed our letter to the clerk. He handed us lollipops…conspiracy forgotten! My mom piloted us safely home.

I’m not sure if our letter had any affect on NASA or if it was even received before the Apollo 11 mission was completed. I do know that the mission was a success and all three astronauts were given a hero’s welcome. Mr. Collins was where he needed to be when he needed to be there and brought them all safely home. Mission accomplished. Thanks Captain.

My mom was the captain of our ship. She kept things orderly and on-schedule. Her expertise was indispensable to us in completing our homework and she was always available to deliver four kids to where they needed to be when they needed to be there. Up to the onset of our driving years, she likely piloted us 480,000 miles in our tin can…to the Moon and back, all the while never asking for recognition and always being 100% successful in bringing us safely home. Thanks my Captain. She was the hero in my day!

In 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League defeated the defending champion Baltimore Orioles of the American League in the Baseball World Series…four games to three. The Pirate’s Roberto Clemente became the first Spanish-speaking ballplayer to win Most Valuable Player honors; hitting safely in all seven games.

“Who did you get?” While still sucking on the straw that was in his mouth, Davey twisted his baseball-themed commemorative cup around to look at the picture and autograph displayed on the front of his Slurpee. He hesitated in his response to let the brain freeze headache run its course! “Rob…Roberto Clemente…Pittsburgh Pirates” he finally stammered out! “Ah…Clemente is great…I got Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles…the human vacuum cleaner…nothing gets by him at third base!” I read his stats on the back of the cup as I used the spoon end of the straw to scoop the flavored ice into my mouth.

“You can have my cup after I’m done.” “Why?  Don’t you want it?” Davey asked. “No…I already have a Brooks Robinson at home.” “Wow…thanks!” Davey responded. “But we need to make sure the cup is rinsed out…I forgot last time and left it on my bedroom floor…my mom yelled at me when she saw all the ants.” I looked at the sticky soda-coated sides of the cup. “Hey…lets hide them in your sister’s room!” I offered as we both climbed onto our bikes for the ride home from the 7-Eleven.

That night I sat in the bleachers at a local softball field to watch my dad play ball with his work team. Davey sat next to me.  My dad had played varsity and semi-pro baseball before getting married and starting our family.  He played third base. He was a married man now, with a job and four kids.  On this day, as with every work day, my father had put forth his best effort to produce high quality work products and meet client deadlines. The money he earned for a good days work went to support us kids, often at the expense of our parent’s own needs.

The batter hit a hard grounder down the third base line. Our heads darted to the left as my father dove sharply to his right to snag the ball, and, in a singular motion, jump to his feet to make the long throw to first base in time for the out. “Wow…is your dad on a Slurpee cup?” Davey blurted out.  I beamed with pride as my Brooks Robinson brushed the infield dirt from his uniform. Tomorrow it would be back to work for my dad. He was the hero in my day!

In 1972, Richard Nixon was the President of the United States.  On a dark June night, several men entered a room in the Watergate Office Complex…  Well…let’s not go there!  Suffice it to say that I continued to benefit immensely from keeping the heroes in my day close to the heart! Who are the heroes in your day?