Remembering Heroes

Flag of the United States on American astronau...
Flag of the United States on American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s space suit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This afternoon, I had to pick up a few things at the grocery store including getting the Sunday paper for my mom.  As I was checking out, the cashier looked down at the headline in the Chicago Tribune Neil Armstrong 1930-2012- First man to walk on moon.

She apparently hadn’t heard or seen the news of his death, and she gasped when she saw the news in such a way that made me turn away because otherwise I would have cried.

There is something very sad about the passing of this particular hero.

By all accounts, Neil Armstrong was a quiet man, and his well-known statement: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” was perhaps more poetic than he usually was.

In the Chicago Tribune, it quotes Neil Armstrong as saying, “I am, and ever will be, a white-sock, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer.”  When asked what it felt like to the first man on the moon, he stated  “I was certainly aware that this was the culmination of the work of 300,000 to 400,000 people over a decade.”

Stage 2 Finish: Michael Rogers, Chris Horner, ...
Stage 2 Finish: Michael Rogers, Chris Horner, Lance Armstrong (Photo credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious)

Earlier this week another Armstrong had a different experience. He lost his Tour De France titles for failure to continue to dispute doping charges.

In a poll that I saw on-line yesterday, over 50% of those polled thought it was unfair that he would have to continue to prove his innocence after passing the blood tests during the actual events.

Perhaps, others like me didn’t caring about the doping because we were more impressed how he has helped other cancer survivors to learn how to live strong, not the 7 titles.  Still, it’s hard to know what to think of this.

I wonder if Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon today how he would have been treated.  Would he be allowed to be a quiet, nerdy engineer?  Would we have wanted to make him into something more than a man?

There aren’t many memories from my childhood that I remember, but I do remember watching a fuzzy black and white television in the middle of the summer (July 20, 1969 to be exact) and waiting for a man to step on the moon.  That was such a big day in the earth’s history, and in my opinion, we forget that day and that accomplishment too easily. My mother still has a newspaper clipping from that day.

As I drove home from the grocery store today, I shed tears of gratitude for Neil Armstrong because he was a personification of the best of the American spirit — courageous, dedicated, humble and part of a vast team of people working to explore new frontiers and expand the capabilities of all humans into new realms.  In his own way, Lance Armstrong inspired many people to move beyond the limitations of cancer.  Still, Neil Armstrong is an entirely different kind of hero who consistently didn’t seem to be competing for himself, but worked hard to cross new frontiers for all of us.

Neil Armstrong also reminds me of my parents, my father had the same pale blue eyes and quiet determination of Armstrong.  And this year, my mother turned 82 like Armstrong.  Hearing of Armstrong’s passing makes me once again aware how short of a time that we have to experience and appreciate our heroes, both personal and collective.

Daily Contemplation:

What are the traits of your personal and collective heroes?

Have you ever thanked your heroes for how much they have inspired you?

How could you live more like your heroes?

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