1968 had been a bad year and early in 1969, the world had not recovered from its sickness. Much of our pain in the United States derived from the war in Viet Nam or from the Civil Rights unrest. The two-and-a-half-month Battle for Kha Sanh began along with the Tet Offensive. Three college students were killed by the police in a Civil Rights protest in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy are both assassinated. Much, much more would occur before we watched a glimmer of hope in July of 1969.
The country, and the world, seemed to be coming apart at the seams. Student and civil rights protests and riots, not just in the good old USA but all over the world. Cronkite said what many of us feared and others denied, “the war is unwinnable”. LBJ announced “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president” setting the stage for the hot mess that was the Democratic Convention in Chicago. We hadn’t even made it to August.
As we limped into the summer of 1969 little changed. I was a nineteen-year-old college student determined to exercise my god given right to drink myself blind and chase young coeds I would never be able to catch. I was not oblivious to the issues, especially Viet Nam. I did not want to be sent “nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves”, from an early LBJ quote. Unfortunately, we still had a draft and I had registered in the very bad, previous year.
Still, in July 1969 there was hope…at nearly a quarter million miles away from the troubled world.
Many of us are being quizzed about the significance of July 20, 1969. Former students often asked, “Do you remember?” Perfectly. I was with some two-hundred close friends taking a break from nickel drafts and the dance floor at the Cellar in Charlotte. I don’t remember the band that played that night or who I was with…I was stone cold sober. I remember the small black and white TV above the bar we all crowded around. I remember the cheers when Neil Armstrong hesitated and finally made his “giant leap.” I admit it would be the next day before I learned what he said.
I remember the night. I remember it bringing a bit of hope to a troubling era. We would continue to tear ourselves apart with the news of Mai Lai breaking, a random draft lottery announced, more student and civil unrest, and the Manson Family begin their killing spree. Well, there was Woodstock and the Amazing Mets win the World Series.
No matter how bad things got during the Nixon years, humanity had been to the moon and back. Humans had left their footprints. Maybe we should think about returning…and soon. We need a “giant leap for mankind.”
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If you are interested in sexy, romantic adventure, Don Miller writing as Lena Christenson can be found at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true