It was there, and then it wasn’t: a grainy, pockmarked triangle slashed by a dark shadow. First the edges blurred into an impressionist dream of earth tones and light, then the cut of a thin shadow skimmed across the surface, and then—darkness. Nothing to see, no matter how I strained my eyes.
Static, like a windstorm against a microphone, accented by high-pitched beeps.
A calm male voice: “Contact light. Okay, engine stop.”
Then another voice, a familiar twang, Texan: “We copy you down, Eagle.”
The first voice again: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
Later, I heard that about five million people all over the world were doing exactly what I was doing at that moment. I had a summer job as a day camp counselor at the local Y, but they sent everybody home early that day—kids, counselors, and staff—to watch two men land on the moon, just like President Kennedy had promised they would eight years before.
In the thrill of the moment, it was hard to predict what people would remember afterward. Probably they’d remember the words, “The Eagle has landed.” But I’d remember the part that came before. I’d remember the first word in that announcement: Houston.
If it hadn’t been for my old man, that word might have been different.
Some people regard my father Harry as a two-bit shamus. They see him as a licensed peeper with a gun under his coat and the ethics of an alligator lizard. I’ve seen him that way myself. But he’s got his principles. And I knew as I sat in our chilly living room, curtain drawn against the blazing star that lit up the lunar surface and melted the Texas sidewalks, that this was his gift to me: that word.
He didn’t have to do it. The other side was safer, and they paid better, too.
But I was his little girl, and he wanted to make me happy.