I am not prone to weeping openly. That is, I don’t just start sobbing when something pushes my emotional hot button.
But I tend to swallow hard, get a little choked up at sights. Historic videos do that to me.
I cannot, for instance, watch Muhammad Ali light the 1996 Olympic torch in Atlanta without getting teary-eyed; the same thing happens when I watch video of Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and the announcer says he’s “running like a tremendous machine!”; ditto for watching Sen. Robert F. Kennedy say “on to Chicago and let’s win there” moments before the gunman wounded him mortally in Los Angeles.
So … I’ve been choking back tears this week watching CNN’s series on “The Sixties.” The segment this week dealt with the space race. The United States competed with the Soviet Union to be the first nation to land someone on the moon. We won that race. It was a come-from-behind victory, you’ll recall.
The segment that does it to me every time I see it is the launch of Apollo 8, the first lunar orbit mission that blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 21, 1968. The launch itself is an emotional moment for me. It reminds me of when my late mother and I would get up early to watch the countdown of those Mercury and Gemini launches. The thrill is something that has never left me.
The CNN series, though, takes you through the launch and quickly to the point where Apollo 8 commences lunar orbit with astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders aboard.
Then, on Christmas Eve 1968, Borman pulls out his Bible as he trains the TV camera on the Earth-rise over the moon’s horizon and he starts reading from the Book of Genesis … reminding us of our world that God created.
Yep, that chokes me up.
1968 was a hideous year. The Vietnam War was going badly; assassins killed Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK; our streets were erupting in chaos as Americans protested the war.
Then, to have the commander of a space mission read on Christmas Eve from the passage in the Bible that takes us back to the beginning of our very existence in the universe …
As Tom Hanks says on the CNN segment, “Who wrote that script?”