Today is July 20th. Two momentous and unbelievable events on this date that provided so much drama to so many people. One spawned by hate, the other truly historic. Two events, same date, but separated by more than just 43 years on the calendar.
Today we’re mourning the loss of a dozen people in one of the worst mass shootings ever in this country. Police say a 24-year-old graduate school drop-out shot 71 people in a packed Colorado movie theater, watching the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie. As of this writing, 12 of them are dead. Many of the victims thought the violence unfolding was all part of the film, but quickly realized it was a real-life nightmare. It’s a day many Americans were glued to the TV for coverage of the massacre. It’s a day many will never forget.
And for those old enough, what happened 43 years ago today, is something millions of Americans couldn’t get enough of on TV, and many will never forget. Men walked on the moon for the first time. Apollo 11 carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into space and three days and 240 thousand miles later, we heard Armstrong say the famous words, “The Eagle has landed,” and not long after that, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I’ll never forget it. I was a 12-year-old boy who was awestruck by such an unbelievable thought. Looking up at the moon at night and thinking, “There is someone actually standing on that thing?” I was camping with my family that hot summer day, and far from our TV set. But we, and many other campers,found someone with a TV, and sitting in folding chairs or in the dirt, huddled around it in awe and anticipation as those iconic images were transmitted to earth from a quarter of a million miles away.
The astronauts left a plaque on the surface of the moon that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon — July 1969 A.D. — We came in peace for all mankind.” 43 years later, more proof that while man can accomplish the “impossible”, peace is still out of his reach.
Two events. Same date. Both dramatic. But other than that, hardly anything else in common, except we’ll never forget either one.