And I was visibly emotional.
My first full-time newspaper job became a reality when I walked into the newsroom at the Huron Daily Plainsman in the fall of 1968. I loved that job and to this day I sometimes wonder why I ever left.
That is also when I was introduced to the Plainsman state editor, Roger Kasa. He was already a respected news man, and a few short months later, he became the managing editor and headed up the newsroom staff. Roger took this very young sportswriter under his wing, although I never attained the status he held in his occupation and community, I credit his mentoring to the fact I was able to spend 45 years in the news industry.
Back in those days there were no 24 hour news channels like today's CNN or Fox News. Big news events were often reported by program interruptions. And fifty years ago this week, there was one of those timeless moments when the world stood still in front of television sets.
The sports desk was the only one with a black and white television set so we could watch high school state tournaments and news briefs. On the afternoon of July 20, 1969, the news staff and a few pressmen gathered around my desk as "the most trusted man in America," Walter Cronkite, told us "the Eagle has landed."
The only other sound in the newsroom was the ticking of the Associated Press ticker tape machine, clicking away a story about what we were watching.
Man was about to set foot on the moon, fulfilling a request (challenge) that had been issued by President John F. Kennedy less than a decade earlier.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," American astronaut Neil Armstrong announced in a scratchy voice, his "giant leap" viewed live on television sets worldwide.
Cronkite was visibly emotional as he continued his coverage. I was visibly emotional, too.
About forty years ago, Penny and I were fortunate to be invited by the late Rod Flannery of Wessington Springs, to join a group of educators and media on a flight to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. One of the perks of the trip was a day in nearby Washington, D.C. We visited with the South Dakota congressional members, and I stood at the very podium where President Kennedy issued his manned space flight to the moon challenge.
But the real highlight of the trip was waiting at the Smithsonian Institute a short distance away.
Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins were launched from Cape Kennedy (Florida) atop a Saturn V rocket. Their Command Module, the only remaining portion of the rocket to return to earth, had been on public display there since 1971... and I was going to see it.
We hurried to the exhibit to see what remains of mankind's biggest accomplishment and I was not disappointed. There it was! Heat-stained, smaller than I expected and beautiful.
For good measure, I walked to where an armed guard watched over a moon stone that had traveled back with the historic trio. He smiled at my enthusiasm as I touched a piece of the moon. It was one giant leap for Craig.
Craig Wenzel is the former True Dakotan editor/publisher