By Mary O’Brien, M.D.
I was startled recenty at 5 A.M. A strange, golden light was shining on my bedroom wall. It was not a familiar pattern. Grabbing my robe, I went to the window and pulled back the curtains. A massive, misty, yellow sphere was glowing just above the tree line on the horizon. I went outside.
Was it a search light? Was some group starting construction at 5 A.M.? The air was heavy and still with a level of humidity that was oppressive. The birds were beginning to chirp, but there were no typical sounds of annoying human activity.
The sphere of light was larger than any natural phenomenon that I had ever seen. It was bright yellow and appeared to be expanding as I watched in perplexed amazement. Trying not to trip in the dark of my backyard, I stood at the edge of the tree line. Clouds on the horizon started to part. I gasped out loud as I realized a full moon was setting in the most spectacular fashion I had ever witnessed.
I wanted to call my neighbors to come see this miraculous spectacle. But then, not everyone appreciates exquisite beauty at 5 A.M.
It occurred to me that 50 years earlier, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were blasting off on Apollo 11 for man’s first trip to that magnificent yellow sphere.
Now I understand. “Tranquility Base: The Eagle has landed.” On July 20, 1969, anyone on earth who had access to a TV was glued to it. The entire world paused for a time, united in hopeful, anxious awe at what we were watching on grainy black and white images. Most people under the age of 57 or so don’t understand. We were spellbound in our pride and joy at being Americans and citizens of the good earth. No one watching that glorious event had a dry eye. It was literally hard to breathe.
July 20, 1969, was one of the most important days in human history. It happened because President Kennedy set the goal, and 400,000 people worked around the clock for nearly a decade to achieve it.
Most of us will never be part of something as tremendous as the space program. But we can choose to notice the wonders all around us. Sometimes, I wonder how many extraordinary sights we all miss because we’re sleeping or busy or distracted. Getting up at 5 A.M. has its rewards.