Neil Armstrong was the first hero of my generation. His crowning achievement came when I was 7 months old, and was the culmination of a lifetime of quiet courage and unblinking boldness.
Every child I knew, mostly boys like me, held 3 prized toys among their Lincoln Logs and Tonka trucks: a Lunar Module, an Apollo rocket, and a tiny plastic Neil Armstrong walking unafraid along the carpeted moonscape of our imaginations.
The Apollo missions were, as was often the case in the heady days of America’s nascent space program, so aptly named. These ordinary human beings were attempting something that was only envisioned before in bedtime stories and myths. They were the namesake of the Greek god of light and truth, and it was only fitting that Neil Armstrong rode high atop the crest of achievement for mankind.
Make no mistake about it. Everything we can’t leave home without, everything now woven into the commonplace modern human condition– even you and I on this Internet–owes some debt to the moonshots of the 1960’s and 70’s. And it all had to culminate in that first man, alone against the dark sky and bright sun, stepping out into history. And if Neil Armstrong had never stepped out of that doorway it would all be somehow different. George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry would not have completed their work if Neil had not first completed the business of Humanity in July of 1969.
His heroism was as untouchable and lofty as Davy Crockett’s or the Lone Ranger’s. Because of him, we grew up thinking that anything was achievable. When people say “If we can land a Man on the Moon, we can do this,” they’re talking about Neil Armstrong.
Because of this, I actually won’t wish him the customary farewell. Eternal heroes like him live on, no matter what their bodies may become. Legend will keep him alive forever. No goodbyes, only God Speed.