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The day hope landed on the moon

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NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT - When I remember the moon landing, I think about my father. Fifty years ago, on the evening of Sunday, July 20, 1969, we sat together in Dad’s capacious study in our house in Ithaca, New York, holding our breaths, hardly uttering a word as the Eagle touched down.

My father, raised in Barbados, was a stern and distant man of donnish bent. He was rarely impressed and almost never smiled. But when Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 mission commander, stepped onto the lunar surface, Dad grinned from ear to ear. The nation joined in. The world joined in. The jubilation of the moment cannot be explained. There is no analogy.

A glowing profile a few days before launch insisted that Armstrong’s “acts” would “survive in all probability as long as mankind exists.” That was how people felt, as if history had suddenly taken a sharp turn. Actually it hadn’t — but we were in the grip of a fevered optimism.

If you’re not old enough to remember, the chances are you don’t appreciate how desperately the nation and the world needed Apollo 11. The Vietnam War seemed eternal. Tricky Dick was in the White House. Meanwhile, heroes were falling everywhere. Just 13 months earlier, Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in Los Angeles. Two months before that, Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. During the spring and summer of 1968, the nation’s cities had burned.

That weekend, the nation’s left was in a particularly bad way. On Saturday morning — literally the day before the Eagle touched down — I had witnessed my father’s agony after learning that the previous night, Sen. Edward Kennedy had driven his car off a bridge on........

© The Japan Times