QB Dobbs helps me Remember Apollo 11

dam thoughts, barry currin, beaverdamusa.comA couple of nights ago, University of Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs reminded his twitter followers that July 16 marked the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch which landed the first man on the moon.

I follow a few athletes on twitter, and they usually tweet about sports, food or girls. They never tweet about historic scientific milestones.

If you are a Tennessee fan, however — or if you follow college football in general — you already know this not out of character for Joshua, who is majoring in aerospace engineering.

The media has made a big deal out of UT’s rocket scientist quarterback. People enjoy a story like this; and, it makes them appreciate Joshua for more than just a football player.

For me, though, it goes a bit deeper.

I have always been a great fan of the US space program. My father worked at NASA for 25 years. He was not a rocket scientist, but his involvement influenced my appreciation for space exploration from an early age.

And the most important milestone in that appreciation was the Apollo 11 launch. That’s because I saw it in person. I was 5, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Outfitted with a brand new little Panama hat and a new pair of green plastic sunglasses, I jumped in the cavernous backseat of the ’69 Catalina, and we headed toward Cocoa Beach. (I still think whoever named Cocoa Beach must have had a 5-year-old, because to me it still sounds like the happiest place on earth.)

The morning of the launch, we got up way before dawn and boarded a school bus shuttle from the hotel that would take us to Cape Canaveral. It was already hot that morning, and the bus was packed, making it even hotter.

The trip seemed infinite, but we finally joined a throng of people at a NASA employee area to watch the liftoff. The big countdown clock said we were still two hours away from launch to the best of my recollection.

About a mile away, across a big body of water, we could see the Saturn V rocket as it sat on the launch pad. It looked like a toothpick. The heat rising rising off the water made it seem to quiver.

After an eternity, the countdown got to single digits. Smoke erupted from the launch pad and engulfed the rocket for a few seconds before it rose slowly and majestically, taking three brave men on what is still the most famous journey of all journeys.

And then that rocket — so distant a few seconds before – seemed to fly directly over our heads. I could plainly see the American flag and USA painted vertically on the fuselage as a giant fireball pushed it into the blue sky.

The noise from the engines sounded like someone lit the fuse on the world’s largest firecracker pack, threw it in a metal bucket then stuck my head in there with it.

It was big stuff for a 5-year-old. Heck, it was big stuff for everybody.

A few days later, we watched the landing on my grandmother’s black and white TV. Even the stoic, seasoned Walter Cronkite was overcome with emotion when he heard, “The Eagle has landed.”

So on this 45th anniversary, my hat is off to everyone who made that day a reality — from President Kennedy’s challenge 8 years prior all the way down to every NASA employee who helped.

And my hat is off also to Joshua Dobbs for that tweet reminding me to remember.

(Here is a compilation of the mission from CBS News. You must watch it:)

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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