Remembering moon landing
by The Press and Standard | July 26, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: July 24, 2019 at 9:46 am
By JOSH TAYLOR
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 spacecraft landing on the moon, the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society hosted a “Landing Party” at the Lowcountry Regional Airport in Walterboro on July 20. Co-hosted by the Walterboro-Colleton County Airport Commission, the event served as a fun and family-friendly way to recognize this vital point in American history. The party also served as a fundraiser for the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society, which is the trustee of the Bedon-Lucas House, the Little Library and the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease in Jacksonboro.
USC Salk history professor Sarah Miller, Ph.D, who is historian for the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society said, “This was a wonderful opportunity to recognize a fantastic historic event while sharing history, science and fun.” The attendees, which numbered around 100, were treated to a galaxy of interactive and immersive activities. The local Civil Air Patrol squadron provided instruction in model rocket building, as well as a flight simulator. A backdrop of the moon, modeled in the image of red carpet photo ops, was created by Ashleigh Cook. Families and children utilized it throughout the night, sharing pictures of them on the moon. Continuous music was played by the Louie D Project, and DJs from East to West entertainment as people dined and danced against the setting sun.
Perhaps the most important table at the event belonged to local resident Bill Whitten. Surrounded by moon landing and space memorabilia, and adorned in aging NASA press passes, Whitten gleefully spun tales of his experiences watching Apollo 11 lift off in 1969, bringing an element of living history. Before he told his stories, attendees had to touch a shard from the Apollo 11 spacecraft — Whitten’s way of bringing those who listened into the fold.
As a young journalist based in Savannah, Whitten was hungry for a story of historic proportions. Making his way to Cape Kennedy, he was one of approximately one million people to view the rocket blast off. This kindled a lifelong love of space exploration, eventually leading to a book he penned, “The Day Man Landed on the Moon: A Reporter’s 25th Anniversary.”
He said what stands out about that day after all these years was trying to get out of Brevard County amid the throngs of people, which took longer than for Apollo 11 to reach Earth’s orbit. Prior to the Walterboro event, Whitten returned to Florida to take part in a 50th reunion of media members who were present for the launch.
Once the sun set, a hush came over the crowd, and the music ceased as the black and white footage of the 1969 moon landing was projected onto a big screen. Beyond being a common sound-byte, seeing it on the day it happened still serves as a catalyst of awe and inspiration for not only those who lived through it, but for those born after as well.