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July 17th, 2009
06:03 PM ET

Apollo 11: One Small Step

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 Mission Commander Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. He said, "that's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.

I remember being dragged in from playing outside at a friend's house to watch what looked like just another black and white movie. I was too young to appreciate what was arguably the best technological feat of the 20th century.

From writer Joe Parham: It was humid and I was the guest of my uncle, one of whom I occasionally disagreed.

Uncle Sam had quartered me at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training. One of the classrooms was set up with a television.

About two dozen of us showed up late that night, despite the fact we had to get up at 5:30 the next morning.

It seemed to take forever for anything to happen, for that very first step.

The room was quiet, punctuated by an occasional “wow” or ”golly” or “damn, look at that.”

We were young men, all tough as nails, and just about each of us found it hard to believe that someone was leaving footprints on the moon. As we walked out, a friend from south Georgia turned to me and said, “The Army’ll probably send us up there tomorrow to clean up after ‘em.” We all laughed, grinned and walked into the dark night, leaving history on a black and white tv set glowing in an empty classroom.

From writer Clint Deloatch: When Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon I was about 12 years old.

We were out of school and it was hot during mid-summer.

I lived in a small farming town in North Carolina and our dad was a news junkie then, as he still is now at 85 years old.

He made us all come into our den, where our black and white TV was on and we had to sit and watch history being made as man landed on the moon.

Now, he didn’t really have to make us watch TV because my sisters and brothers and I also loved TV. If it was news that was on, we watched that too.

I recall being fascinated by the sights and sounds of man landing on the moon… all the static from the radios, all the beeps and the grainy pictures.

It was great!

Where were you and what were you doing when man first walked on the moon?

Join Betty Nguyen and TJ Holmes Saturday and Sunday in the CNN Newsroom, beginning 6am ET/3am PT.

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  1. Charlie Erickson

    I was (and still am) a huge fan of the space program(s). I was stationed overseas in Germany at the time. It was about 9or 10 at night (if I recall correctly), and the Armed Forces TV Network had a live feed. I was in the service club at the time, and we were all glued to the TV. I remember all of the "hootin' and a hollerin' " and all the cheering. I recall feeling so proud as an American, and so proud of our species. To see a Human (sometime later on) walk on the surface of something which wasn't a part of Earth, was the most fascinating thing I could imagine.

    In my life, that will probably be the ultimate "where were you, when" moment.


    July 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  2. Matt Wills

    I am of an age that Walter Cronkite was to me as he was to so many others: he was The News. I have a personal encounter to relate.

    In 1968, I took an Introduction to Broadcasting summer course at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY. The culmination was a field trip to NYC to take our FCC license test and tour CBS, where we would watch the Evening News right in the studio.

    On the way to the studio, I stopped off at the men's room. Back in the corridor, as I was hurrying to catch up with the group, I rounded a corner and ran smack into Cronkite, nearly knocking him over. Unflustered and chuckling, he asked what the big hurry was. I explained, and he wished me luck in my broadcasting career.

    A momentary encounter, but one that will always remain as fresh in my mind as the day it happened.

    July 18, 2009 at 6:21 am |
  3. CAPT George Hart, MC, USN (RET)

    For the first of the America's Cup Races in 196l, VADM George Burke, White House Physician, assigned me as guests' doctor on the USS J.P. Kennedy while he was President John Kennedy's party's physician. During the race, a very quiet but discerning reporter quizzed me on some of the sailient points of the day's race. Much later his name came to me–Walter Cronkite.The events of that day were highlights of a Naval Career.

    July 18, 2009 at 6:34 am |
  4. michael armstrong sr.

    I was in the third grade and every body was so excited that we had really reached out and touched the moon watching every moment on television with Walter Cronkite leading us through it step by step .

    July 18, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  5. Dyonnia Beegle

    I was at home with my Mom, Dad, boyfriend (& now my husband of 40 years this Dec.), my sister & her boyfriend. I kept the newspaper from the next day & our children now ages 32 & 27 took that paper to school several times. It is now discolored but I do treasure it and the memory.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  6. Steve Johns

    I remember being awakened by my parents that evening. I was six years old and my parents took me out to the living room and stood me up in front of the television so I would not fall asleep again. To this day I remember seeing those first steps on the moon on that old black and white TV.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  7. anniewilson

    I remember vividly where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. For some reason, the only TV in the house that had decent lunar reception was the TV in my brother's room. It was a narrow room with a TV on one side and a set of bunk beds on the other. My entire family, Mom, Dad, myself, Kevin, Wayne, Lori, Mike and Marie were all sitting on the bunk beds watching the moon landing. I was on the top bunk with Wayne and Mike and everyone else in the family was on the bottom bunk.

    I remember it as though it happened yesterday!

    Meg Kelso

    July 18, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  8. Meg Matthews Lexington KY

    I was 20 years old spending a summer in Valencia, Spain and living with a Spanish host family. It was early evening and our host mother came running into our bedroom and said "Ven Ven – los Americanos estan en la luna." Come, come – the americans are on the moon.

    My roommate and I quickly ran to their living room and there they were – our countrymen on the moon – what a proud moment.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  9. William Courtemanche

    I was stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Leonardwood, Missour. I watched it at home with my family on a small black and white television.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  10. Rev Ned Flexer

    On that night in July when man first landed on the moon, it was a Sunday night at First Baptist Church, Phoenix, AZ. I was a young pastor, just out of seminary and a worship service was scheduled for the same time as the "first step". So, for the first time ever we brought a TV into the sanctuary and saw and celebrated this amazing event.. It was a worshipful experience and I am so glad we didn't miss it. Rev Ned Flexer

    July 18, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  11. david dew bruner

    I was 11 years old and sat up with my 80 year old Grandmother for this really important event. It was only later in my life that I realized how important it was to her. She was born in 1894 and it was trully amazing how her life had changed – cars, phones, radio, television, computers and now a man landing on the moon. Her life spanned the gambit technological advancement. I would really enjoy now talking with her about how it changed her life. In our age, we accept without blinking our eyes,any new advancement such as robot vacuum cleaners!

    July 18, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  12. Curt Whittaker

    I was 8 years old, glued to the TV with my family, when we saw the camera picture getting closer and closer to the surface and heard those words "The Eagle has landed". And then we watched in amazement as an astronaut climbed down the little ladder and stepped onto the moon. The MOON for heaven's sake! It absolutely amazed me that it could be done in the first place, and even more so that we could get radio and TV pictures to travel that far.

    I shared my fascination with space travel with my father, who was an Air Force public affairs officer. So I remember it as something we shared. Since he died when I was a teenager, I still feel a closeness to him when I see something about the Apollo spacecrafts.

    I do have to make a comment about Betty and TJ's observation of how excited Walter Cronkite was when the lunar lander touched down. They seem to see in him only a childlike giddiness over space exploration. But if you'll notice (and remember), his emotion included a great sense of relief. You see, they barely made it. They were running out of fuel quickly, but not yet at a good spot to land. They were down to just seconds left, running practically on fumes, when they located the spot and landed just in time. We all had the same reaction – a sigh of relief and a shout of excitement all at once.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  13. Sheila C Angelini

    My parents, my high school boyfriend and I were at the beach on Lake Eries Presque Isle Near Erie PA. We were all parked in the sand at the edge of the lake with our radios after car there were people in bathing suits hanging on the cars and there was one long cheer heard all the way along the beach when we set foot on the moon. Everyone was listening to Walter Cronkite, hanging on his every word, then the jumping and the yelling, it was magic!

    July 18, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  14. Walter W. Carr

    I was stationed at Herzo Base in Germany, recently married after a tour in Viet Nam. We lived off base, renting from a German family, the dad having served with the Germans in WW2. We watched the Apollo 11 moon landing in their living room. We were all amazed!

    July 18, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  15. Marilyn Roberts

    I was visiting friends at their new home in Deal, New Jersey. There were around twenty of us sitting in this big room watching the TV. This was a "big" home overlooking the beach - a beautiful setting. When the mission as accomplished and announced, there was a giant round of applause and champagne drinking. We were all so young and happy - proud to be Americans.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:42 am |
  16. Susan Wayne

    I was about 12 and we were living in the Bronx in a hot crowded apartment. We were a family of space enthusiasts; my father introduced me to science and science fiction, my mother and sister rode the coattails of our passion, and we had followed the space program from Mercury to Apollo as a family, plastered to our black and white TV for every launch and landing.

    My father was a broadcaster in New York public radio but he was not scheduled to be on the air for this; this called for a visual medium and the schedule-bound station he worked for didn't provide any special coverage, and this freed us to watch the landing en famille.

    We drove north up the Hudson Valley the day before the landing to an area scenic but not yet built up and took a room in a countryside motel (in fact, I think that was its name, "Countryside Motel") with air conditioning, color TV and a pool and spent a couple of days hanging out away from the summer city heat and watched the glory of that first footfall with Uncle Walter. Definitely one of life's most memorable moments!

    July 18, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  17. Lynda Lethem Cole

    My husband and I were in the Peace Corps in Cali, Colombia. A new television tower between Venezuela and Colombia had just been erected and began broadcasting just barely in time for the lunar landing. Colombian friends had invited us to their home for the occasion since we had no television. I remember the incredible pride I felt that our country was able to accomplish this feat. What has stayed with me through the years was the near reverence with which we were treated afterwards just because we were Americans. Talk about "winning hearts and minds"!

    July 18, 2009 at 10:50 am |

    In the evening as we watched the News, my daughter Theresa & liveed in Minneapolis MN. We walked out side and looked up at the MOON.. I said" Terri jo" Neil Armstrong is on the Moon, right now and we are actually watching it happen. Sher was 5 yrs old.

    July 18, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  19. Claressa

    I remember it was very late & quite hot. My parents were tired and went up to bed. My boyfriend & I were alone watching & waiting for that first step onto the moon. We kissed as that first step was taken. Memorable!

    July 18, 2009 at 11:01 am |
  20. Shorty

    I watched, with my parents, Walter Cronkite and the moon landing on a black and white TV. We were just as giddy as he was, we were grinning, cheering, just very proud of the accomplishment.

    July 18, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  21. Sharon,Daniel Island

    Watching TV with the rest of the tv viewing world. I had a 6 week old newborn so staying at home was the order of the day in my life. Could not stop viewing the tube,fascinated an questioning at the same time. We only had three channels and this was must see TV

    July 18, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  22. Jimmie Johnson

    I was 13 years old when I watched TV as they began to land on the Moon. I road my bike a mile to my Grandparents home and told my 70 year old Grandfather. I said "Papaw we have landed on the Moon". He looked at me and said 'Well, They can do just about anything nowdays'. He was born in 1889 and had seen more innovation than I could ever imagine.

    Those today who get publicity for doubting the Moon landing are pure fools. These people would not have the courage of the first Astronauts to strap themselves onto 8 million pounds of thrust and rocket into space. They say America did not have the technology to do a landing. Back then America had imagination, drive and ingenuity. The human spirit found a way to achieve the goal. WE DIDN'T SIT IN FRONT OF A TV AND WISH THINGS COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED. Armstong, Aldrin, Collins, Conrad, Shepard, Glenn, Grissom, White, Lovell. These are names of Legends, not names of pretenders!

    July 19, 2009 at 3:03 pm |
  23. Mat Fortin

    I was 7, living in Quebec. Ours was the first 26" color TV in the neighborhood (not that it mattered in the end with the footage being black & white), and it seems everyone was in our living room.

    A product of their times – where children were kept out of "grown up" things and told to be quiet – my parents didn't give me any information prior to the event. They probably assumed I wouldn't understand, ironic since I studied math and developed an interest in all things space.

    While we all know more about technology today, it's sad to see that public interest in NASA only spikes when things go wrong.

    July 20, 2009 at 9:47 am |

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