Over the course of my life, I've been witness to a whole host of events that are the subject of "where were you when..." questions. While I don't remember the assassination, I do remember exactly where my four year old self was when I saw the riderless horse in Kennedy's funeral procession. So many other events, whether or not I was old enough to understand them...MLK. Another Kennedy. The Watergate mess and a president's resignation. An assassination attempt. Spacecraft exploding after launch or on reentry. Wars begun. Genocides.
But the greatest event of my lifetime - July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to step on the moon?
Yeah, missed that.
Not for lack of trying to see it. Like many households across the world, we were glued to the live television coverage. It took forever before all the preparations were complete, and Armstrong was ready to exit the landing module.
It was a hot summer night, around nine-thirty, our time. Since it was hot, and the house not air conditioned, the front door was open so the sight breeze could filter in through the screen. Along with the breeze, we heard sirens. Not uncommon, as we lived just two blocks over from a firehouse. Instead of growing fainter as the trucks moved away, responding to the call, the sound grew louder.
Red lights flashed on and off in our windows.
My mother, ever the nosy one, went out on the porch to look down the block and see what was happening. It wasn't enough that she was out there, she had to start calling "Get out here! Come look at this!" in that parental voice that brooks no disobedience.
So my sister and I (in my case reluctantly; my sister was only seven, and up for more local excitement than living history making) joined her on the porch.
By the time she let us come back in, Aldrin was on his way out of the lander to join Armstrong on the surface of the moon.
Yeah, I may still be a bit bitter about that.
So what was going on down the block?
Never did find out.