It is July 20, 1969 and the whole world watches in wonder as the Apollo 11 lunar module, nicknamed the "Eagle" landed on the moon. Anticipation builds during the two hour wait as the two men in the module, Commander Neil Alden Armstrong and Col. Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, prepare to make history and step onto the surface of the moon. They will be the first human beings to walk on a celestial body other than the planet Earth. At 11:56 pm, Armstrong descends down a ladder and utters those famous words, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." Joy erupts around the globe as a feat, once considered impossible occurred right before their very eyes.
The joy and excitement of that event was nearly overwhelming in the small Midwestern town of Wapakoneta, Ohio. For this close knit community, it was personal. The first man was one of their own. Neil was the son of Wapakoneta residents Steven and Viola Armstrong. He graduated from the local high school, he earned his pilots license at the local airfield and he worked after school and weekends in several local shops, stocking shelves and running errands to earn money to pay for his flying lessons. Members of the family’s church held a prayer vigil during the entire mission and while they celebrated those steps on the moon, the prayers did not stop until the Apollo 11 Astronauts were safely back on Earth.
More than 50 years have passed since that incredible accomplishment. Wapakonetans have celebrated the anniversary of that moon landing each year, not only to praise their Hometown Hero, but also the thousands of people who contributed to the success of the Apollo 11 Mission.
Mark your calendar for mid-July and come celebrate this anniversary each year in the community the "First Man" called home. We look forward to having you join us.