“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
immortal words, and of course the feat that set the stage for those
words, cemented a place in history for Ohio native Neil Armstrong.
most Americans, I followed every step of the Apollo 11 mission as Neil
Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins journeyed toward
their destiny as the first humans to walk on the moon.
most Americans, all of the members of the astronaut corps were my
heroes. Equal in my eyes, especially as I grew older were the test
pilots, many of whom joined the corps of astronauts, who put their lives
on the line in order to test and perfect the machines that allowed us
to become the first nation, and to date, the only nation, to put a human
being on the surface of the moon, and more importantly, return him
safely to earth.
Men like Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield and Joe
Kittinger, to name but a few, who tested the machines as well as tens of
thousands of men and women behind the scenes are the one who allowed
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to turn that “small step” into “one giant
I must mention the “tens of thousands” because, as was
repeated by all who spoke at the memorial service for him at the
Armstrong Air and Space Museum this past week, that is exactly what
Armstrong would tell anyone who asked. Landing a man on the moon was a
team effort. He was just a member of the team.
I was privileged to
have the opportunity to photograph and spend time with Armstrong on a
number of occasions over the years, through my work as photographer for
the National Aviation Hall of Fame, in which he was enshrined in 1979.
reluctance to speak of his accomplishments and his wish for privacy has
been well-documented. I will only say that the time that I spent with
him was among the most memorable moments of my life.
He was always
gracious and kind. I got to the point where I would apologize in advance
before he made a public appearance and tell him that if he got tired of
the camera, just say the word I would stop. Not one time did he ever
say stop. He would put on that Neil Armstrong grin, then go out and
greet hundreds and thousands of folks, to whom Armstrong was a hero
above all others.
He regularly represented the National Aviation
Hall of Fame at their annual enshrinement and at the National Aviation
Heritage Invitational, a joint venture for the hall of fame and
Rolls-Royce. His kindness and generosity in proudly representing both
organizations is just one more example of the type of man Armstrong was.
mark left in our history books by Neil A. Armstrong, is just as
indelible as that first footprint he left in the lunar surface.
2004, at the enshrinement ceremony for the National Aviation Hall of
Fame, emcee Dennis Quaid asked me to photograph his son, Jack, who was
11 at the time, meeting Neil Armstrong, Quaid had asked me frequently
throughout the afternoon to let him know when Armstrong arrived. As we
walked over to greet Armstrong, Quaid told his son, “I want you to know
that the man you are about to meet is just like getting to meet
No more accurate description of Armstrong’s place in modern history has ever been spoken.
was a privilege to have known Armstrong and I can say that I am a
better person for having known him, not because he was the first man to
walk on the moon, but because he was Neil Armstrong, a kind and
considerate human being.